Skip to main content

Full text of "The Bach family; seven generations of creative genius"

See other formats

Digitized  by  the  Internet  Archive 

in  2011  with  funding  from 

Boston  Library  Consortium  Member  Libraries 




A  Creative  Life  in  Music 

His  Life  and  Work 


I.  Johann  Sebastian  Bach 

Pastel  by  Gottlieb  Friedrich  Bach  in  the  possession 

of  Paul  Bach,  Eisenach 


Seven  Generations  of 
Creative  Genius 






■  -  n  - 


I.,,,  . 





To  the  Memory  of 

whose  eager  quest 

for  the  adventures  of  the  mind 

was  a  source  of  stimulation 

to  the  Author 


books  and  articles  on  members  of  the  Bach  family  are  so  numerous  that 
a  complete  bibliography  would  fill  several  volumes.  Nevertheless  it  does 
not  seem  to  have  occurred  to  previous  authors  to  write  the  history  of  the 
whole  clan  from  the  first  manifestations  of  musical  talent  in  the  16th 
century  to  its  last  occurrence  in  the  middle  of  the  19th.  This  has  been 
attempted  in  the  present  book,  and  the  magnitude  of  the  task  will,  it  is 
hoped,  be  accepted  as  an  excuse  for  the  inevitable  shortcomings  of  the 

From  the  outset  the  writer  was  aware  of  the  complexity  of  problems 
confronting  him,  since,  with  the  exception  of  Johann  Sebastian's  works 
and  a  small  number  of  modern  reprints,  the  majority  of  the  material 
needed  was  only  available  in  European  libraries.  Moreover,  the  where- 
abouts of  the  invaluable  Bachiana  of  the  former  Preussische  Staatsbiblio- 
thek,  Berlin,  were  not  known  in  1947,  when  the  present  research  was 
started.  A  tremendous  amount  of  slow  and  painstaking  spadework  had  to 
be  done  before  the  author  was  in  possession  of  a  representative  collection 
of  photostats  and  microfilms,  on  which  to  base  his  study.  However,  most 
obstacles  were  eventually  overcome,  and  the  writer  believes  that  the  book 
offers  in  each  of  its  sections  material  new  to  the  English  reader.  In  the  case 
of  Sebastian's  relatives  a  great  amount  of  works  accessible  only  in  manu- 
script or  in  contemporary  prints  was  dealt  with,  among  them  various 
compositions  not  considered  by  former  research  students.  An  attempt  was 
also  made  to  outline  the  careers  of  the  different  Bachs  against  the  religious, 
social,  and  political  backgrounds  of  the  time.  With  regard  to  Sebastian  it 
was  felt  that  a  substantial  part  of  the  book  ought  to  be  devoted  to  this 
most  representative  member  of  the  family.  The  author  aimed  at  including 
the  results  of  recent  German  research,  in  particular  from  publications 
issued  in  honour  of  the  Bicentenary  of  1950.  Various  details  have  now 
been  cleared  up  which  contribute  to  an  interpretation  somewhat  different 
from  that  given  in  the  classical  biographies  of  Spitta,  Schweitzer  or  Terry. 
In  this  connection  mention  should  be  made  of  the  frontispiece  to  this  book, 
the  miniature  portrait  of  Sebastian  painted  by  his  kinsman,  Gottlieb 
Friedrich  Bach,  which  the  artist's  great-grandson  gave  to  the  author  for 
first  publication. 


As  the  amount  of  music  quotations  included  in  the  present  book 
was  naturally  restricted,  the  author  plans  to  present  before  long  an 
Anthology  of  music  by  members  of  the  Bach  Family. 

The  list  of  persons  and  institutions  to  whom  the  author  feels  indebted 
is  a  very  extensive  one.  In  the  first  place  he  should  like  to  express  his 
deepest  appreciation  to  the  Bollingen  Foundation  for  their  generous 
financial  assistance  which  enabled  him  to  obtain  the  necessary  material 
from  foreign  countries.  Moreover,  he  found  European  experts  most 
co-operative  and  interested  in  his  project.  Without  their  unfailing  assist- 
ance and  patient  labours  this  book  would  never  have  been  written.  In 
particular  he  wishes  to  express  his  thanks  to  Mr.  Paul  Bach,  Eisenach; 
Mrs.  Mia  Bach,  Witten/Ruhr;  Mr.  Ernst  Brinkmann,  Mtihlhausen;  Pro- 
fessor Victor  Burr,  Director  of  the  Universitatsbibliothek,  Tubingen;  Dr. 

A.  Corbet,  Bibliothecaire  de  la  Bibliotheque  du  Conservatoire  Royal, 
Brussels;  Dr.  Martin  Cremer,  Director  of  the  Westdeutsche  Bibliothek, 
Marburg/L.;  Dr.  Conrad  Freyse,  Director  of  the  Bach-Museum,  Eisenach; 
Professor  Wilibald  Gurlitt,  Freiburg/B.;  Dr.  Rudolf  Hocker,  former 
Director  of  the  Oeffentliche  Studienbibliothek,  Berlin;  His  Honour,  the 
Mayor  of  Jena;  A.  Hyatt  King,  Esq.,  Department  of  Printed  Music, 
British  Museum,  London;  Dr.  Hedwig  Kraus,  Director  of  the  Collections 
of  the  Gesellschaft  der  Musikfreunde,  Vienna;  His  Honour,  Mayor 
Mogk  of  Meiningen;  Dr.  Herbert  Pee,  Curator  of  the  Kunsthalle,  Ham- 
burg; Dr.  Roland  Philip,  Vienna;  Mrs.  Fritz  Rollberg,  widow  of  the  late 
Bach  scholar,  Eisenach;  Dr.  Friedrich  Schafer,  Kirchenarchivrat,  Eisenach; 

B.  Schofield,  Esq.,  Keeper  of  the  Department  of  Manuscripts  in  the 
British  Museum,  London;  Dr.  Friedrich  Smend,  Professor  of  the  Kirch- 
liche  Hochschule,  Berlin;  Stadtarchivar  Fritz  Wiegand,  Erfurt.  In  this 
country  the  author  received  most  valuable  help  from  Dr.  Huntington 
Cairns,  Director  of  the  National  Gallery,  Washington,  D.C. ;  Dr. 
Archibald  T.  Davison  of  Harvard  University;  Dr.  George  S.  Dickinson  of 
Vassar  College;  Dr.  Paul  H.  Lang  and  Dr.  Daniel  G.  Mason  of  Columbia 
University;  Mr.  Philip  Vaudrin,  New  York.  Unfailing  assistance 
was  given  by  Dr.  Harold  Spivacke,  Mr.  Edward  Waters,  Mr.  Richard  S. 
Hill  and  Mr.  William  Lichtenwanger  of  the  Library  of  Congress, 
Washington,  D.C,  as  well  as  by  Mr.  Richard  Appel,  chief  of  the  music 
department  of  the  Boston  Public  Library.  Various  officials  of  the  Widener, 
Houghton  and  Isham  Libraries  of  Harvard  University,  the  Sibley  Musical 
Library  of  Rochester,  N.Y.,  and  the  New  York  Public  Library  proved 
most  helpful  too.  Dr.  George  B.  Weston,  Professor  emeritus  of  Harvard 
University,  very  generously  made  the  treasures  of  his  Friedemann  Bach 


Collection  available  to  the  writer.  Thanks  are  also  due  to  Lord  Hilling- 
don  and  the  Oxford  University  Press  for  permission  to  reproduce  the 
portrait  of  Johann  Christian  Bach  by  Thomas  Gainsborough  from  Johann 
Christian  Bach  by  Terry.  For  basic  advice  regarding  the  evaluation  of 
the  Bach  painters  he  has  to  thank  Mr.  Thomas  M.  Messer,  Assistant 
Director  of  the  American  Federation  of  Art,  and  Dr.  Else  Hofmann, 
New  York.  Linguistic  advice  was  generously  contributed  by  Mrs.  Mabel 
E.  Blandford  and  the  late  Walter  F.  H.  Blandford,  as  well  as  by  Mr.  Klaus 
G.  Roy,  Librarian  of  the  College  of  Music  of  Boston  University.  Dr. 
Henry  S.  Drinker  of  Merion,  Penna.,  very  kindly  translated  some  poems 
into  English;  moreover  his  outstanding  translations  of  Bach  Cantatas  and 
Chorales  were  used  throughout  this  book.  The  author's  brother,  Dr. 
Ernest  Geiringer,  rendered  valuable  help  in  checking  historical  data. 
Great  patience  and  understanding  were  displayed  by  the  publishers,  to 
whom  sincere  thanks  are  due  for  their  splendid  co-operation. 

Dr.  Irene  Geiringer  (Mrs.  Karl  Geiringer),  who  has  assisted  the 
author  in  his  previous  literary  efforts,  extensively  collaborated  in  the 
writing  of  the  present  book,  particularly  with  regard  to  the  biographical 


BOSTON,  MASS.,  October  1953 


Preface  •  page  vii 

Abbreviations  xv 

THE    FIRST    GREAT   ACHIEVEMENTS    (         -1700) 

Introduction :  Ordeal  in  Germany  3 

A  Miller,  A  Jester,  A  Piper  (Veit,  Hans,  Caspar  Bach)  6 

The  Founder  of  the  Erfurt  Dynasty  (Johann  Bach)  13 

Two  Bachs  at  Arnstadt  (Christoph  and  Heinrich  Bach)  19 

Musical  Trends  in  the  lyth  Century — 

The  Compositions  of  Johann  and  Heinrich  Bach  23 

Heinrich's  Two  Great  Sons  (Johann  Christoph  (13)  and  Johann 

Michael  Bach)  30 

The  Music  of  Johann  Michael  Bach  39 

The  Music  of  Johann  Christoph  Bach  47 

The  Triple  Team  of  Bach  Brothers  (Georg  Christoph,  Johann 

Christoph  (12),  Johann  Ambrosius  Bach)  63 

Epilogue  78 


Introduction :  Particularism  and  Universalism  in  Germany  83 

The  Jena  and  the  Muhlhausen  Bach  (Johann  Nicolaus  and 

Johann  Friedrich  Bach)  87 

The  Music  of  Johann  Nicolaus  Bach  93 

The  Descendants  of  Johann  Bach  (Johann  Christoph  (17)  and 

Johann  Bernhard  Bach)  97 

The  Music  of  Johann  Bernhard  Bach  99 

The  Meiningen  Bachs  (Johann  Ludwig  and  Nikolaus  Ephraim 

Bach)  102 

The  Music  of  Johann  Ludwig  Bach  108 

Johann  Sebastian  Bach  119 

I.  Apprenticeship  (1685-1703)  119 

II.  Years  of  Growth  (1703-1708)  128 


in.  The  Great  Organist  (1708-1717)  page  143 

iv.  Court  Conductor  and  Princely  Friend  (1717-1723)  154 
v.  Thomas  Cantor  and  Director  Musices  at  Leipzig  (1723- 

1750)  i63 

vi.  Sebastian  and  His  Family  I9° 

The  Music  of  Johann  Sebastian  Bach  202 

1.  Works  for  Voices  and  Instruments  206 

11.  Works  for  the  Organ  Solo  242 

in.  Works  for  the  Clavier  Solo  259 

iv.  Works  for  String  and  Wind  Instruments ;  Concertos  279 

Epilogue  29^ 


THE   DECLINE   OF   THE   BACH   FAMILY  (1750-  ) 

Introduction :  Rococo  and  Classicism  3QI 

The  Halle  Bach  (Wilhelm  Friedemann  Bach)  3°3 

The  Music  of  Wilhelm  Friedemann  Bach  316 

The  Berlin  and  Hamburg  Bach  (Carl  Philipp  Emanuel  Bach)  336 

The  Music  of  Carl  Philipp  Emanuel  Bach  352 

The  Buckeburg  Bach  (Johann  Christoph  Friedrich  Bach)  378 

The  Music  of  Johann  Christoph  Friedrich  Bach  386 

The  Milan  and  London  Bach  (Johann  Christian  Bach)  4°4 

The  Music  of  Johann  Christian  Bach  417 
Two  Painters  at  Meiningen  (Gottlieb  Friedrich  and  Johann 

Philipp  Bach)  445 

The  Works  of  Gottlieb  Friedrich  and  Johann  Philipp  Bach  447 

Bachs  at  Eisenach  (Johann  Ernst  and  Johann  Georg  Bach)  45 1 

The  Music  of  Johann  Ernst  Bach  454 

Sebastian's  Children  and  the  Bach  Family  464 
Two  Grandsons  of  Sebastian  (Johann  Sebastian  II  and  Wilhelm 

Friedrich  Ernst  Bach)  471 

The  Music  of  Wilhelm  Friedrich  Ernst  Bach  417 

Epilogue  481 

Genealogical  Table  of  the  Bach  Musicians  487 

Bibliography  49° 

Index  of  Persons  and  Places  497 

Index  of  Compositions  by  Members  of  the  Bach  Family  506 



I.  Johann  Sebastian  Bach.  Pastel  by  Gottlieb  Friedrich 

Bach  in  the  possession  of  Paul  Bach,  Eisenach        frontispiece 

II.  A  genealogical  tree  of  the  Bach  family  drawn  in 

the  19th  century  facing  page  16 

III.  A  genealogical  tree  of  the  Bach  family  from  the  19th 

century,  beginning  with  the  year  1530  17 

IV.  Hans  Bach.  Engraving,  161 7,  in  Bibliotheque  Nationale, 

Paris  32 

V.  Eisenach,  where  Johann  Sebastian  Bach  was  born  and 
members  of  the  family  served  from  1665  to  1797. 
Engraving  by  Merian,  1650  33 

VI.  Autograph  of  the  first  page  of  the  Cantata  for  the  16th 
or  24th  Sunday  after  Trinity  by  C.  Philipp  Emanuel 
Bach  in  Universitatsbibliothek,  Tubingen  48 

VII.  Title-page  of  the  Birthday  Cantata  by  Georg  Christoph 

Bach  in  Singakademie,  Berlin  49 

VIIL  Johann  Ambrosius  Bach.     Oil-painting  formerly  in 

Preussische  Staatsbibliothek,  Berlin  80 

IX.  The  house,  1 1,  Rittergasse,  in  which  Johann  Ambrosius 
Bach  lived  during  the  first  three  years  of  his  stay  in 
Eisenach  8 1 

X.  Johann  Ludwig  Bach.  Pastel  by  Gottlieb  Friedrich  Bach 

in  Oeffentliche  Studienbibliothek,  Berlin  96 

XL  Johann  Ludwig  Bach's  Cantata  'Gott  ist  unser  Zuver- 
sicht'  in  the  hand  of  Johann  Sebastian  Bach.  MS.  in 
Oeffentliche  Studienbibliothek,  Berlin  97 

XII.  Corridor  in  the  Eisenach  'Bach  House.'  Oil-painting  by 

Paul  Bach  in  the  possession  of  Karl  Geiringer,  Boston     128 
XHJ.  First  page  of  the  autograph  of  Johann  Sebastian  Bach's 
Cantata  'Es  erhub  sich  ein  Streit,'  formerly  in  Preus- 
sische Staatsbibliothek,  Berlin  129 


XIV.  Wilhelm  Friedemann  Bach.  Drawing  by  P.  Gillie,  for- 
merly in  Preussische  Staatsbibliothek,  Berlin  320 
XV.  First  page  of  autograph  of  Wilhelm  Friedemann  Bach's 
unfinished  Clavier  Concerto  in  E  flat,  in  Westdeutsche 
Bibliothek,  Marburg  321 
XVI.  C.  Philipp  Emanuel  Bach,  Pastor  Sturm  and  the  artist. 
Drawing  by  Andreas  Stottrup  in  Kupferstichkabinett, 
Hamburg  352 
XVII.  Autograph  of  the  'Heilig'  for  one  chorus  by  C.  Philipp 

Emanuel  Bach  in  Universitatsbibliothek,  Tubingen        353 
XVIII.  Johann  Christian  Bach  by  Thomas  Gainsborough  400 

XIX.  Autograph  of  Johann  Christian  Bach's  Clavier  Concerto 

in  B  flat  major  in  Westdeutsche  Bibliothek,  Marburg     401 
XX.  Gottlieb  Friedrich  Bach.  Self-portrait.  Pastel  in  the 

possession  of  Paul  Bach,  Eisenach  448 

XXI.  Johann  Philipp  Bach.  Self-portrait.  Pastel  in  the  posses- 
sion of  Paul  Bach,  Eisenach  449 
XXII.  C.  Philipp  Emanuel  Bach.  Pastel  by  Johann  Philipp 

Bach  in  the  possession  of  Paul  Bach,  Eisenach  456 

XXIII.  Wilhelm  Friedrich  Ernst  Bach.  Oil-painting  in  Sin- 

akademie,  Berlin  464 

XXIV.  The  painter  Johann  Sebastian  II.  Engraving  465 
XXV.  Johann  Sebastian  II.  'Ideal  Landscape.'  Oil-painting  in 

Kunsthalle,  Hamburg  480 

XXVI.  Johann  Sebastian  Bach  II.  'Landscape  with  mill.'  Draw- 
ing in  the  Albertina,  Vienna  481 


1.  The  Bach  cities  on  the  map  of  Germany  page  64 

2.  Signatures  of  various  Bach  musicians  72 

3.  Places  significant  in  J.  Sebastian's  life  192 

(Nos.  2  and  3  from  F.  Wiegand:  'J.  S.  Bach  und  seine  Ver- 
wandten  in  Arnstadt') 


The  numbers  appearing  in  brackets   after   certain  Bach   names   are   those 
established  by  J .  S.  Bach  in  his  'Origin  of  the  Musical  Bach  Family  (cf.  p.  6) 

In  the  discussion  of  the  music  lower  case  letters  indicate  a  minor  key,  capitals 
a  major  key  (a=A  minory  A=A  major,  etc.) 















Archiv  fur  Musikforschung. 

J.  S.  Bach's  Collected  Works  published  by  the  Bach-Gesellschaft. 
Leipzig,  185 1 -i  900. 

Bach  Jahrbuch.  Leipzig,  1904- 

Thematic  catalogue  of  the  works  of  J.  S.  Bach  in  Wolfgang 
Schmieder,  'Thematisch-systematisches  Verzeichnis  der  musikal- 
ischen  Werke  J.  S.  Bach's.'  Leipzig,  1950. 

Denkmaler  deutscher  Tonkunst.  Leipzig,  1892-1931 

Das  Erbe  deutscher  Musik  (continuation  of  DDT  since  1935). 

Thematic  catalogue  of  the  works  of  Wilhelm  Friedemann  Bach 
in  Martin  Falck,  'Wilhelm  Friedemann  Bach.'  Leipzig,  1913. 

Abbreviation  for  the  German  Gulden  (florin),  which  was,  similarly 
to  the  present  pound  sterling,  subdivided  into  20  Groschen  (gr.), 
each  Groschen  comprising  12  Pfennige  (pf.) 

Groschen.  One-twentieth  of  a  German  Gulden. 

Musical  Quarterly. 

J.  S.  Bach's  organ  works  as  published  by  C.  F.  Peters  in  9  vols. 

Pfennig.  One-twelfth  of  a  German  Groschen. 

Thematic  catalogue  of  the  works  of  older  members  of  the  Bach 
family  in  Max  Schneider,  'Thematisches  Verzeichnis  der 
musikalischen  Werke  der  Familie  Bach,'  in  BJ,  1907. 

Sammelbander  der  Internationalen  Musikgesellschaft. 

Thematic  catalogue  of  the  works  of  Johann  Christoph  Friedrich 
Bach  compiled  by  Georg  Schunemann  in  DDT  56. 

Thematic  catalogue  of  the  works  of  Johann  Christian  Bach  in 
Charles  Sanford  Terry's  'John  Christian  Bach.'  London,  1929. 

Thaler.  i\  of  a  German  Gulden. 

Thematic  catalogue  of  the  works  of  Carl  Philipp  Emanuel  Bach 
in  Alfred  Wotquenne,  'C.  Ph.  E.  Bach,  Thematisches  Ver- 
zeichnis seiner  Werke.'  Leipzig,  1905. 

Zeitschrift  fur  Musikwissenschaft. 






(        -1700) 


the  story  of  the  Bach  musicians  is  unique  with  regard  to  achievement  as 
well  as  duration.  In  seven  successive  generations  Bachs  were  active  as 
church  or  town  musicians,  and  even  the  immortal  genius  rising  out  of 
their  midst  was  succeeded  by  sons  who  played  a  highly  significant  part 
in  the  art  of  their  time.  And  of  so  tough  a  fibre  were  the  Bachs  made  that 
they  managed  to  rise  from  the  humblest  beginnings  in  a  period  of  the 
greatest  national  distress. 

It  is  hardly  possible  to  paint  too  dark  a  picture  of  the  ordeal  which 
the  German  people  had  to  endure  in  the  first  half  of  the  17th  century, 
when  the  Thirty  Years  "War  was  fought  in  their  land.  'Fields  lay  waste 
and  desolate.  Burnt  castles  and  villages  in  ashes  were  scattered  far  and 
wide.  The  towns  groaned  under  the  scourge  of  undisciplined  and  preda- 
tory garrisons,  who  wasted  the  property  of  the  citizens,  and  availed  them- 
selves to  the  utmost  of  the  licence  of  war.  The  destruction  of  the  crops 
and  the  constant  succession  of  armies  which  overran  the  exhausted 
country  were  inevitably  followed  by  famine.  The  crowding  together  of 
men  in  camps  and  billets  spread  diseases  which  proved  more  fatal  than 
even  fire  and  sword.  All  vices  flourished  under  the  protection  of  anarchy 
and  impunity,  and  men  became  as  savage  as  the  country  itself.'  This 
description  by  the  German  poet,  Friedrich  Schiller,1  is,  if  anything,  still 
too  moderate  in  tone. 

There  are  other  historians2  who  have  most  bloodcurdling  tales  to  tell. 
Certainly  the  German  people  had  reached  a  tragically  low  level  by  1648, 
the  year  in  which  the  peace  of  Westphalia  was  concluded.  In  the  more 
fortunate  provinces  the  population  had  dropped  to  half  its  former 
strength,  while  in  other  states,  for  instance  Thuringia,  which  will  occupy 
us  in  particular,  not  more  than  one  fourth  was  left.  Those  who  had 
miraculously  survived  were  physically  and  spiritually  exhausted,  and 
naturally  the  children  they  produced  during  the  later  war-years  and  the 
immediate  post-war  period  also  showed  a  lack  of  vitality. 

From  such  a  generation  no  great  creative  achievements  could  reason- 
ably be  expected.  Indeed,  the  German  literature  of  this  period  produced 

1  'Geschichte  des  dreissigjahrigen  Krieges,'  written  in  1791-92. 

2  Cf.  Hermann  Gebhardt,  'Thuringische  Kirchengeschichte,'  Gotha,  1882. 



hardly  anything  of  lasting  value.  There  were  few  gifted  poets  or  writers, 
and  those  who  did  show  a  distinctive  talent  spoiled  a  genuine  capacity 
for  expression  by  crude  and  unsavoury  details.  Even  the  German  language 
itself  had,  as  it  were,  been  given  up  by  the  people,  who  were  anxious  to 
interlard  it  with  as  many  French  and  Latin  idioms  as  possible,  in  order  to 
give  it  style.  In  the  fine  arts  things  were  hardly  better;  'lacking  talents, 
lacking  independent  artistic  ideas,  lacking  opportunities  for  expression, 
German  art  could  in  no  way  compete  with  the  creative  work  of  the 
neighbouring  countries.'1 

It  is  a  strange  and  heartening  phenomenon  that  in  these  disastrous 
years  music  remained  alive,  composers  of  indisputable  talent  appeared, 
and  although  they  were  often  badly  hindered  by  the  exigencies  of  war, 
there  was  never  the  arid  desert  which  was  to  be  found  in  other  domains 
of  art.  A  17th-century  writer,  Johann  Flitner,  even  went  so  far  as  to  speak 
of  a  'seculum  musicum.'  A  baffling  paradox  indeed! 

A  key  to  its  solution  may  be  found  in  the  close  interdependence  of 
music  and  religion.  Wherever  destruction  and  ruin  were  not  complete, 
religion  retained  something  of  its  former  power.  The  little  spiritual  force 
that  subsisted  in  the  survivors  of  the  war  and  the  nearest  post-war  genera- 
tion found  its  expression  in  religious  life.  The  worse  conditions  became 
in  the  outside  world,  the  more  fervent  grew  the  longing  for  the  peace  and 
inner  security  to  be  derived  from  a  life  in  Christ.  In  such  an  atmosphere 
music,  the  most  transcendental  of  all  creative  manifestations,  was  a 
spiritual  necessity,  a  medicine  the  German  people  simply  could  not  do 
without.  In  particular  the  Protestant  Church,  with  much  of  its  original 
driving  force  still  intact,  was  responsible  for  a  continuous  flow  of  new  and 
important  musical  works.  Wherever  a  church  was  spared  from  destruc- 
tion, the  parishioners  did  their  utmost  to  have  services  which,  with  the 
help  of  music,  would  enable  them  to  triumph  over  their  wretched  and 
hopeless  material  existences.  This  does  not  mean,  of  course,  that  the  long 
war  and  its  after-effects  did  not  cause  grave  damage  to  musical  life  as 
well;  the  injuries  inflicted  were  serious,  but  by  no  means  fatal. 

This  is  most  vividly  revealed  when  we  turn  from  the  large  cities, 
which  had  naturally  greater  resources,  to  the  small  Protestant  communi- 
ties, where  cantors,  organists,  and  town  musicians  did  an  amazing  job 
against  tremendous  odds.  In  particular,  music  flourished  in  the  province 
of  Thuringia  and  a  local  historian2  could  remark  proudly  in  1684: 

1  Cf.  Wilhelm  Liibke  and  Max  Semrau, 'Barock  und  Rokoko,'  14th  ed.,  Greifswald,  1913. 

2  August  Boetius,  'Merkwiirdige   und  Auserlesene   Geschichte  von  der  beriihmten 
Landgraffschaft  Thiiringen,'  Gotha,  1684. 


'Music  is  diligently  cultivated  in  churches  and  schools.  The  Thurin- 
gians  know  what  the  ancient  claimed,  that  he  who  does  not  love  singing, 
does  not  possess  balance  either  in  mind  or  body.  Here  they  build  in 
villages  not  only  string  instruments  such  as  violins,  basses,  viola  da 
gamba,  clavicymbals,  spinets,  citterns  .  .  .  because  also  the  peasants  play 
them,  but  one  finds  even  in  insignificant  parishes  organ  works  with  an 
amazing  number  of  stops  and  variety  of  equipment.  [Moreover]  such 
families  as  the  Lindemann,  Altenburg,  Ahle,  Brigel  and  Bach  have  through 
their  compositions  given  a  great  name  to  the  province  of  Thuringia.' 

When  this  report  was  written,  members  of  the  Bach  family  had 
indeed  already  tended  the  musical  soil  of  their  homeland  for  a  long  time. 
Yet  the  Bachs  were  to  continue  work  in  this  field  through  more  than 
another  hundred  years,  and  they  were  to  leave  the  other  musical  families 
far  behind,  rising  to  a  distinction  which  even  the  enthusiastic  chronicler 
was  unable  to  foresee. 


Hans  Bach  (?) 
(Wechmar,  16th  cent.) 

Hans  (The  jester')  Veit  (i) 

1555-1615  ?-i6i9 


Johannes  (2) 

Lips  (3)               Caspar 
?-i620              i6oo(?)-? 

Johann  (4) 

I  I 

Christoph  (5)  Heinrich  (6) 

1613-61  1615-92 


Numbers  following  a  name  are  those  of  Sebastian's  Genealogy. 

during  the  1 8th  century  the  Bach  musicians  became  fully  conscious  of 
their  family's  unique  history.  In  1727  a  Cantor  of  the  Thuringian  town 
of  Gehren  by  the  name  of  Bach  proudly  claimed  in  a  letter  that  'the 
genealogy  of  the  world-famous  Bach  family  could  be  traced  back  to  the 
year  1504.'1  Whether  the  Cantor  really  possessed  a  document  of  this  kind, 
we  do  not  know.  If  he  did,  it  was  not  accessible  to  his  great  kinsman, 
Sebastian  Bach,  who  wrote  eight  years  later  the  history  of  the  clan  en- 
titled 'Origin  of  the  Musical  Bach  Family.'  The  Thomas  Cantor's 
chronicle2  went  back  only  to  the  later  part  of  the  16th  century,  beginning 
with  these  words: 

1  The  writer  of  this  letter  was  Johann  Christoph  Bach  (No.  17  in  Sebastian's 
Genealogy).  Cf.  Fritz  Wiegand,  'Johann  Sebastian  Bach  und  seine  Verwandten  in  Arn- 
stadt,'  Arnstadt,  1950.  In  the  district  of  Coburg,  Franconia,  the  name  of  Bach  can  be 
found  as  early  as  the  year  1000,  according  to  Mr.  Paul  Bach,  Eisenach. 

2  There  are  two  copies  of  the  Ursprung  der  music alisch-Bachischen  Familie  in  existence. 
One  belonged  to  Philipp  Emanuel  Bach  and  was  sent  by  him,  in  1774,  with  some  additions 
and  corrections,  to  Johann  Nikolaus  Forkel,  the  first  Bach  biographer.  The  other  was 
probably  copied  by  Sebastian's  kinsman  and  secretary,  Johann  Elias  Bach,  who  gave  it  to 
his  brother,  Lorenz,  whose  descendants  preserved  the  document.  Complete  editions  of  the 
'Origin'  are  available  in  English  translations  by  Ch.  Sanford  Terry,  London,  1929;  and 
by  David  and  Mendel  ('Bach  Reader'),  New  York,  1945. 



'Veit  Bach,  a  white-bread  baker  in  Hungary,  in  the  16th  century  was 
compelled  to  escape  from  Hungary  because  of  his  Lutheran  faith.  After 
converting  his  property  into  money,  as  far  as  this  could  be  done,  he  went 
to  Germany,  and  finding  security  for  his  religion  in  Thuringia,  settled  at 
Wechmar  near  Gotha,  and  continued  his  trade  there.  What  he  most 
delighted  in  was  his  little  cittern  which  he  used  to  take  with  him  to  work 
to  play  while  the  mill  was  grinding.  A  pretty  noise  the  pair  of  them  must 
have  made!  However,  it  taught  him  to  keep  time,  and  that  apparently  is 
how  music  first  came  into  our  family.' 

We  wish  Sebastian's  report  were  somewhat  more  explicit,  for  it 
leaves  one  essential  point  unclear.  We  do  not  know  whether  Veit  was  a 
native  of  Hungary  or  a  German  baker  of  Wechmar  who  on  the  traditional 
journeyman's  tour  had  found  conditions  in  Hungary  favourable  and 
remained  there.  The  latter  theory  was  adopted  unquestioningly  by  the 
majority  of  scholars,  who  point  out  that  the  name  of  Bach  can  be  traced 
in  various  places  of  Thuringia  all  through  the  16th  century  and  that  a 
man  called  Hans  Bach  (maybe  Veit's  father)  is  mentioned  as  city  guardian 
of  Wechmar  in  1561.  Recently  a  dissenting  voice  was  heard,  however,  in 
Germany.1  If  Veit  emigrated  from  Germany,  it  claims,  he  could  not  have 
stayed  too  long  in  Hungary;  how  was  it  possible  for  him  to  acquire  in  so 
short  a  period  the  apparently  considerable  property  mentioned  by 
Sebastian?  And  why  did  the  chronicler  describe  him  as  baker  in  Hungary, 
without  mentioning  the  Thuringian  origin?  Doesn't  it  seem  more  likely 
that  Veit  was  born  in  Hungary  and  inherited  property  from  his  father? 
His  family  might  still  have  been  a  German  one,  for  at  that  time  many 
people  of  German  origin  were  living  in  Hungary.  On  the  other  hand,  a 
possible  mixture  of  the  German  and  Magyar  races  in  Veit's  or  in  his  wife's 
ancestry  might  have  been  one  of  the  factors  determining  the  rich  artistic 
heritage  Veit  bestowed  on  his  descendants. 

The  question  is  unanswered  yet.2  Two  significant  facts  emerge,  how- 
ever, from  Sebastian's  narrative.  Veit,  for  the  sake  of  his  faith,  gave  up  a 
settled  existence,  thus  proving  the  deep  affinity  to  the  Lutheran  religion 
which  was  to  characterize  so  many  Bachs,  and  Thuringia  was  the  section 
of  Germany  he  decided  on.  Perhaps  he  did  so  because  the  Bachs  residing 
there  were  kinspeople,  but  whatever  were  his  reasons,  there  is  no  doubt 

1  Cf.  W.  Rauschenberger,  'Die  Familien  Bach,'  Frankfurt  a.M.,  1950. 

a  J.  M.  Korabinsky's  assumption  in  'Beschreibung  der  .  .  .  Stadt  Pressburg,' 
Pressburg,  1784,  that  Veit  Bach  had  his  domicile  in  Pressburg  (Bratislava)  has  not  been 
proved  so  far. 


that  the  country  suited  him.  Many  generations  of  Bachs  following  him 
felt  the  same  attraction  and  they  stayed  on  in  this  part  of  Germany, 
just  moving  from  one  Thuringian  town  to  another,  establishing  Bach 
centres  in  Gotha,  Arnstadt,  Erfurt,  Eisenach,  and  so  forth.  Maybe  a 
certain  lack  of  initiative  in  the  Bachs  was  responsible  for  this,  as  was 
also  the  traditional  conception  of  the  time  that  the  son  should  inherit 
the  father's  position.  But  these  were  not  all  the  decisive  factors.  Partly 
it  was  love  of  Thuringia  that  made  the  Bachs  cling  to  it  up  to  our  own 

It  is  a  beautiful  country,  this  Thuringia.  In  the  south-west  and  north- 
east, a  central  basin  is  bordered  by  the  huge,  dense  forests  of  the 
Thuringerwald  and  Harz  Mountains,  which  even  in  our  days  are  among 
the  most  popular  vacation  resorts  in  Germany.  Nature  is  kind  to  the 
Thuringians;  a  moderate  climate  and  fertile  soil  bring  forth  crops  not 
excelled  by  those  of  any  other  German  province.  The  inhabitants  are 
stolid  and  introvert,  and  an  abundance  of  legends  testifies  to  their  strong 
imagination.  In  Thuringia  stands  the  Kyffhauser  mountain  in  which  the 
Emperor  Friedrich  Barbarossa  is  believed  to  be  waiting  with  his 
crusading  army  until  such  time  as  the  ravens  give  him  the  signal  to 
return  to  the  German  people.  The  highest  mountain  of  the  Harz,  the 
Brocken,  famous  for  the  peculiar  mist  formations  on  its  summit,  is  held 
to  be  the  meeting  place  of  all  witches.  Near  Eisenach  there  stands  the 
Horselberg  in  which  Venus  is  reported  to  have  kept  Tannhauser  in  bondage, 
until  he  left  her  and  appeared  in  the  Wartburg  while  the  Minnesingers' 
song  contest  was  being  held.  But  the  name  of  Eisenach's  Wartburg 
conjures  up  yet  another  picture.  Here  it  was  that  Luther,  under  the 
assumed  name  of  Junker  J  org,  stayed  whilst  working  on  his  epoch- 
making  translation  of  the  Bible;  and  this  is  by  no  means  the  only  place  in 
Thuringia  connected  with  the  reformer.  In  Eisenach  he  went  to  the  Latin 
school,  the  same  institution  which  Sebastian  Bach  was  destined  to  attend 
almost  two  hundred  years  later.  In  Erfurt  Luther  studied  at  the  University 
and  entered  the  Augustinian  monastery.  No  wonder  that  Thuringia 
became  one  of  the  pillars  of  the  new  Reformation,  and  that  some  of  its 
ruling  princes  were  among  the  leaders  of  the  movement. 

So  Veit  Bach  settled  down  in  Thuringia,  where  simple  plough-boys 
were  apt  to  appear  on  Sundays  in  their  choir-loft  to  sing  or  perform  on 
instruments  'with  more  art  than  many  a  learned  musician,'1  where  even 
in  the  churches  of  the  tiniest  hamlets  Vocal  music  was  adorned  and 

1  Preface   to   the    116th  Psalm   written    in    1623    by  the   Jena   official,    Burkhardt 
Grossmann  (formerly  Prussian  State  Library,  Berlin,  Mus.  aut.  G  930). 


embellished  by  at  least  five  or  six  violins.'1  In  this  land,  steeped  in  music, 
the  baker's  musical  proficiency  increased,  and  his  beloved  cittern  became 
so  much  a  part  of  his  existence  that  he  did  not  confine  himself  to  playing 
it  in  hours  of  leisure  but  also  took  it  to  his  mill. 

Veit  was  not  the  only  Bach  of  his  generation  to  feel  so  strongly 
inclined  towards  music.  About  the  same  time  there  lived  Hans  Bach, 
possibly  a  brother  of  Veit,  who,  though  a  carpenter  by  trade,  became 
fiddler  (Spielmann)  and  court  jester  to  the  widowed  Duchess  of 
Wurttemberg  in  Niirtingen.  The  little  we  know  about  him  is  revealed  in 
two  portraits  which  were  preserved  to  posterity  through  Emanuel  Bach's2 
collection  of  family  treasures.  In  the  earlier  of  the  two  portraits,  an  etching 
formerly  in  the  State  Library  of  Berlin,  we  see  a  middle-aged  man,  wearing 
the  large  ruff  fashionable  at  the  time,  and  carrying  a  fiddle  in  his  left  hand,  a 
bow  in  his  right.  His  hair  is  cut  quite  short,  except  for  a  carefully  modelled 
'quiff'  in  the  middle  of  his  forehead,  which  was  probably  meant  to 
produce  a  comical  effect,  and  he  has  a  pointed  beard  and  moustache.  On 
his  right  shoulder  are  displayed  the  jingling  bells  of  the  jester.  The  music 
he  performed  was  apparently  of  a  light  character.  At  least  that  is  what  the 
verses3  on  a  panel  above  his  head  imply: 

Hans  Bach,  the  fiddler,  has  a  style 

That  when  you  hear  him,  you  must  smile; 

It  is  indeed  unique  and  weird, 

In  keeping  with  his  Hans  Bach  beard. 

The  other  portrait,  a  copperplate  engraving  owned  by  the  Bibliotheque 
Nationale  in  Paris,  depicts  an  older  man,  dressed  in  about  the  same  style, 
and  bears  an  inscription  in  Latin:  'Hans  Bach,  famous  and  amusing  court 
jester,  jocular  fiddler,  a  diligent,  upright,  and  religious  man.'  As  a  symbol 
of  his  real  trade,  eighteen  different  carpenter's  tools  are  engraved  around 
the  inscription  (111.  IV). 

The  fact  that  two  different  portraits  were  engraved  of  Hans  Bach,  one 
of  them  by  the  well-reputed  Wilhelm  Schichard,  subsequently  a  Univer- 
sity professor  in  Tubingen,  reveals  that  the  portrayed  was  by  no  means 
a  common  court  jester.  It  is  also  noteworthy  that  although  jesters,  like 
jugglers,  ranked  at  that  time  among  the  'infamous'  (unehrlich)  professions, 

1  Cf.  Michael  Altenburg,  preface  to  'Erster  Teil  newer  lieblich  und  zierlicher  Intraden,' 

2  Emanuel  Bach  erroneously  assumed  the  portrayed  to  be  Johannes  (Hans)  Bach  (2), 
the  great-grandfather  of  Sebastian,  who  died  in  1626.  Actually  the  Hans  of  the  pictures  died 
in  161 5  and  his  exact  relationship  to  Sebastian  is  not  known. 

3  Translation  by  Henry  S.  Drinker. 


the  church  register  mentions  that  Hans  'this  diligent  and  faithful  servant 
of  Her  Ducal  Highness  was  given  an  honest  funeral.'  Thus  Hans  Bach  had, 
thanks  to  his  fine  character  and  excellent  work,  succeeded  in  rising  out  of 
the  lowest  stratum  of  society  and  had  earned  general  respect. 

While  the  miller-baker  Veit  was  an  amateur  musician,  and  Hans 
combined  the  positions  of  a  fiddler  and  jester  with  that  of  a  carpenter, 
another  Bach,  by  the  name  of  Caspar  (born  around  1570),  perhaps  a 
younger  brother  of  Veit,  served  in  the  Thuringian  city  of  Gotha  as  a 
town  piper  (Stadtpfeifer).  Caspar  lived  in  Gotha  in  the  high  tower  of 
the  town  hall,1  as  was  the  custom  for  the  town  piper;  for,  according  to  the 
instructions  given  to  him,  in  addition  to  his  duties  as  a  town  musician 
(cf.  p.  15),  he  had  to  'strike  the  hours,  look  out  day  and  night  for  riders 
and  carriages,  watch  closely  all  roads  on  which  more  than  two  riders  were 
approaching,  and  also  report  whenever  he  observed  a  fire  nearby  or  in 
the  distance.'  He  stayed  in  Gotha  until  1620,  when  he  was  called  in  the 
same  capacity  to  the  city  of  Arnstadt.  This  Thuringian  town  was  to  play 
a  highly  important  part  in  the  Bach  chronicle,  and,  save  for  short  intervals, 
to  harbour  musicians  of  the  clan  for  almost  two  centuries.2  Caspar  came 
to  a  city  sadly  depleted  through  an  epidemic  of  plague  in  the  preceding 
year,  in  which  around  a  third  of  the  population  had  perished.  Even  when 
health  conditions  improved,  the  war,  which  had  broken  out  in  161 8, 
created  an  atmosphere  of  tension.  The  watch  duties  of  the  piper  were  now 
of  the  greatest  importance  and  Caspar  may  have  experienced  plenty  of 
anxious  moments  while  living  in  the  tower  of  the  castle.  In  1633  he  was 
at  last  able  to  resign  his  position  and  to  buy  a  house  of  his  own,  which 
still  stands  to-day.  He  continued,  however,  to  work  as  musician,  though 
not  as  watchman,  both  for  the  town  and  for  the  city's  patron,  the  Count 
of  Schwarzburg-Arnstadt,  in  whose  band  he  played  the  duliian  (bassoon). 
The  music-loving  sovereign  showed  himself  very  generous  in  promoting 
the  training  of  another  Caspar,  probably  the  town  piper's  eldest  son 
(born  around  1600).  He  sent  the  youth,  who  apparently  showed  great 
talent,  to  the  courts  of  Bayreuth  and  Dresden,  paying  for  Caspar's  instruc- 
tion by  renowned  masters,  and  liberally  equipping  him  with  the  necessary 
clothes  and  instruments.  In  return  Caspar  had  to  sign  a  pledge  that  he 
would  practise  assiduously  on  various  instruments  and  subsequently 

1  The  Genealogy  relates  that  he  resided  at  the  casde  of  Grimmenstein,  which  cannot 
be  correct  as  the  casde  was  demolished  in  1567. 

2  The  name  of  Bach  occurs  for  the  first  time  in  the  Arnstadt  church  register  of  1613, 
when  a  Johanna  Elisabeth  Bach  from  the  village  of  Ichtershausen  married  the  cooper, 
Andreas  Hartmann.  Cf.  Wiegand,  I.e. 


enter  the  Count's  service.  This  plan  never  materialized,  however.  Maybe 
the  Count  did  not  engage  young  Caspar  because  the  war  situation  was 
interfering  more  and  more  with  musical  activities,  maybe  the  promising 
young  artist  died  at  an  early  age;  whatever  the  explanation,  there  is  no 
trace  of  him  in  Arnstadt.  Nor  were  old  Caspar's  other  descendants  privi- 
leged to  carry  on  the  father's  work.  Four  of  his  younger  sons  died  before 
him,  in  the  years  1632  to  1637,  and  the  town  thus  lost  a  number  of 
musicians.1  After  experiencing  so  much  unhappiness  in  Arnstadt,  old 
Caspar  seems  to  have  felt  the  urge  to  leave  it  for  the  time  being.  There 
were  many  kinsmen  living  in  nearby  villages  and  he  may  have  joined  one 
such  group  and  supported  himself  as  a  musician.  Thus  his  death,  which 
occurred  between  1642  and  1644,  is  not  noted  in  the  Arnstadt  register. 

It  was  to  Caspar  Bach  that  a  son  of  Veit  by  the  name  of  Johannes  (2), 
born  around  1580,  was  apprenticed  when  the  lad's  'evident  talent' 
(Genealogy)  induced  him  to  adopt  the  profession  of  a  musician.  Johannes 
stayed  with  his  master  even  after  the  traditional  term  of  apprenticeship 
was  served,  but  at  last  he  moved  back  to  Wechmar.  He  was  frequently 
called  to  nearby  places  like  Gotha,  Erfurt,  and  Arnstadt,  when  the  town 
musicians  needed  reinforcement,  and  he  had  an  excellent  reputation  all 
through  the  district.  In  addition  to  this  he  worked  as  a  carpetmaker,2  and 
when  his  father  Veit  died  in  161 9,  Johannes  seems  to  have  taken  charge 
of  the  mill  as  well.  But,  only  seven  years  after  his  father's  death,  this  busy 
life  was  cut  short  when  Johannes  succumbed  to  the  plague  which 
ravaged  the  district.  He  left  three  sons,  each  of  whom  was  destined  to 
found  an  important  musical  dynasty.3 

The  Genealogy  also  mentions  a  brother  of  Johannes,  describing  him 
as  a  carpetmaker  but  omitting  his  name.  It  is  generally  assumed  that  this 
was  Lips  Bach,  who  appears  in  the  Wechmar  register  as  the  son  of  Veit, 

1  Three  of  them,  Melchior  (1603-34),  Johannes  (1602-32)  and  Nicol  (1619-37),  are 
described  in  the  death-register  as  musicians;  the  fourth,  who  died  in  1635,  as  a  blind  man. 
This  latter,  by  the  name  of  Heinrich,  may  well  be  the  'blind  Jonah'  whom  the  Genealogy 
mentions  as  the  subject  of  many  adventures. 

2  This  is  how  the  funeral  sermon  for  his  son,  Heinrich  Bach,  by  J.  G.  Olearius, 
1692,  describes  him.  The  Genealogy  on  the  other  hand  mentions  his  work  as  a  miller. 

3  The  information  in  the  Genealogy  regarding  his  marriage,  taken  over  uncritically 
by  some  Bach  biographers,  including  Ch.  S.  Terry,  is  slightly  misleading.  It  states  that  on 
his  return  after  Veit's  death,  Johannes  married  Anna  Schmied,  an  innkeeper's  daughter. 
This  marriage  would  have  taken  place  in  1619.  On  the  other  hand,  the  important  sons  of 
Johannes  mentioned  in  the  Genealogy  were  born  in  1604,  1613,  1615.  If  he  married  Anna 
Schmied  in  1619,  she  can  only  have  been  his  second  wife,  while  the  sons  we  know  of  were 
children  of  a  first  marriage.  It  seems  more  likely,  however,  that  he  moved  to  Wechmar 
much  earlier. 

12  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

and  died  in  1620.  The  family  tradition  claims  that  the  three  gifted  sons  of 
Lips  were  sent  to  Italy  by  the  Count  of  Schwarzburg-Arnstadt  for  their 
musical  education,  but  so  far  no  evidence  to  support  this  claim  has  been 
unearthed.  It  is  not  until  a  century  later  that  we  find  solid  historical 
evidence  of  this  branch  of  the  family,  the  so-called  'Meiningen  line,' 
which  was  to  produce  some  very  fine  artists. 


Johannes  (2) 

Barbara  Hoffmann=Johann  (4)=Hedwig  Lammerhirt 

r -1636  1604-73 


Johann  Christian  (7)  Johann  Egidius  (8)  Johann  Nikolaus  (9) 

1640-82  1645-1716  1653-82 

Johann  Bernhard  (18)  Johann  Christoph  (19) 

1676-1749  1685-1740 

AT  the  time  when  Johannes  Bach  (2)  died,  Wechmar  was  no  longer  a 
good  place  in  which  to  live.  War  had  come  to  Germany,  and  as  Thuringia 
was  crossed  by  two  strategically  important  roads,  one  to  Niirnberg  and 
one  to  Wiirzburg,  troops  marched  again  and  again  through  the  lovely 
land  and  drained  its  resources.  Moreover,  it  did  not  take  long  for  the 
plague  to  catch  up  with  war.  The  little  community  of  Wechmar  suffered 
dreadful  epidemics  in  1626  and  1635;  in  the  latter  as  many  as  503  victims 
were  listed,  among  them  the  widow  of  Johannes,  who  himself  had  been 
felled  by  the  first  outbreak  of  the  Black  Death  nine  years  earlier.  If  ever  a 
time  was  inimical  to  the  muses,  this  can  be  said  of  the  years  when  the 
three  sons  of  Johannes  started  on  their  careers.  Nevertheless  they  all  chose 
music  as  a  profession.  The  eldest,  Johann  (4),  born  in  Wechmar  in  1604, 
loved  accompanying  his  father  on  musical  expeditions.  At  an  early  age 
he  showed  such  skill  that  the  town  piper  of  the  city  of  Suhl,  a  man  by  the 
name  of  Johann  Christoph  Hoffmann,  persuaded  Johannes  to  entrust  the 
lad  to  him  for  instruction.  For  seven  years  young  Johann  stayed  at  Suhl 
as  apprentice  and  journeyman..  He  became  attached  to  his  master's 
daughter,  Barbara,  and  ultimately  married  her,  when  he  was  financially 
able  to  do  so.  As  a  rule  it  was  a  tendency  of  the  Bach  family  and,  as  a 
matter  of  fact,  of  the  times,  to  marry  young,  but  the  disastrous  conditions 
then  prevailing  in  Germany  forced  Johann  to  wait  until  he  was  3 1  years 
old.  In  spite  of  excellent  qualifications,  Johann  was  unable  for  some 


14  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

considerable  time  to  find  a  permanent  position;  he  drifted  from  Suhl  to 
Schweinfurt,  thence  to  his  native  village,  and  off  again  to  various  places, 
only  to  return  six  years  later  to  Wechmar.  He  may  have  been  connected 
with  the  army,  for  in  a  subsequent  declaration  for  income  tax  he  admitted 
possessing  some  money  in  cash,  which  he  'had  previously  earned  from 
the  officers.'1  At  last  in  1635  he  was  called  to  the  city  of  Erfurt.  The  events 
that  were  responsible  for  an  opening  in  the  town  band  were  so  typical  of 
the  time  that  they  deserve  mention  here.  Since  1631  Erfurt  had  had  a 
Swedish  garrison  within  its  walls;  but  although  the  Swedes  had  come  to 
help  the  Protestant  cause  and  had  orders  to  treat  the  Erfurt  citizens  in  a 
friendly  manner,  the  soldiers  could  not  be  restrained  from  brutality  and 
the  city  suffered  greatly  at  the  hands  of  its  Swedish  allies.  One  day  an 
Erfurt  citizen  by  the  name  of  Hans  Rothlander  invited  a  Swedish  soldier 
to  his  house  and  induced  the  town  musicians  to  play  at  his  little  party. 
The  soldier  drank  too  much  and  dozed  off;  when  roused  by  his  hostess, 
he  thought  he  was  being  attacked.  He  jumped  up  and  killed  or  wounded 
all  within  his  reach.  Thus  the  town  band  was  depleted  and  Johann  Bach 
got  his  chance.2 

In  spite  of  the  grim  reasons  for  his  appointment,  Johann  must  have 
been  glad  of  the  opportunity.  Erfurt,  with  a  population  of  60,000  (a 
number  that  was  to  drop  to  15,000  before  the  end  of  the  century!),  was 
one  of  the  cultural  centres  of  the  country.  It  had  always  been  a  progressive 
town.  One  of  the  earliest  organs  in  Germany  was  erected  in  the  nth 
century  in  its  church  of  St.  Paul,  and  its  University,  founded  in  1392, 
formed  one  of  the  bastions  of  Humanism.  But  since  the  outbreak  of  the 
Thirty  Years  War  the  city  had  suffered  enormous  damage,  both 
economically  and  morally.  How  its  funds  were  depleted  may  be  seen  from 
the  following  summary.  In  1622  Erfurt  had  to  pay  200,000  fl.  (cf.  note  2, 
p.  20)  for  the  army  of  Duke  Frederick  of  Altenburg;  in  1625  the  war 
taxes  paid  to  the  Elector  of  Mainz  amounted  to  60,000  A.;  one  year  later 
the  citizens  gave  50,000  fl.  to  General  Merode  to  ward  off  the  billeting 
of  his  army,  and  in  1630  they  were  called  on  to  supply  50,000  pounds  of 
bread  and  7000  thalers  to  the  Emperor's  general,  Tilly.  When  ultimately 
the  Swedish  garrison  occupied  the  city  in  1631,  it  stayed  there  for  five 
long  years.  The  respite  offered  by  its  departure  was  all  too  short.  Hostili- 
ties were  soon  resumed  and  in  the  following  years  various  armies  invaded 

1  Cf.  Otto  Rollert,  'Die  Erfurter  Bache,'  in  'J-  S.  Bach  in  Thiiringen,'  Weimar,  1950. 

2  The  Genealogy  claims  that  Johann  was  appointed  director  of  the  town  band.  Rollert, 
I.e.,  states,  however,  that  although  Johann  Bach  held  a  very  influential  position  in  the 
band,  its  nominal  head  was  a  man  by  the  name  of  Christoph  Volpracht. 

LIFE    OF    JOHANN  15 

Erfurt.  Even  after  the  end  of  the  Thirty  Years  War  the  ill-fated  city's 
troubles  were  not  over.  In  1664  it  again  suffered  a  heavy  bombardment 
and,  a  few  years  later,  occupation  by  an  imperial  army. 

Through  these  turbulent  years  up  to  his  death  in  1673,  Johann  Bach 
remained  at  his  post,  the  duties  of  which  were  manifold.  In  these 
dangerous  times  the  town  musicians  had  to  'keep  watch  seriously  and 
diligently,'  and  when  their  suspicions  were  aroused,  'to  blow  with  the 
greatest  force  so  that  all  the  people  might  take  heart  and  grasp  their 
guns.'1  Many  of  the  town  musicians'  activities  helped  the  citizens  'to  take 
heart.'  The  populace  woke  up  to  the  sound  of  a  chorale  (a  Protestant 
hymn  tune)  played  around  3.30  a.m.  by  the  pipers  from  the  tower  to 
signal  the  beginning  of  the  day;  they  heard  another  sacred  melody  when 
they  sat  down  to  their  noonday  meal;  and  when  a  chorale  sounded  for 
the  third  time  in  the  day,  they  knew  it  was  time  for  bed.  Great  art  was 
displayed  in  the  arrangement  and  performance  of  these  chorales.  Johann 
Kuhnau,  for  instance,  described  the  work  of  the  Leipzig  pipers  in  1700 
in  these  words:2  'when  our  town  pipers  blow  a  hymn  tune  from  the 
tower  on  their  sackbuts,  we  are  all  immeasurably  stirred  and  imagine 
that  we  hear  the  angels  singing.'  There  is  reason  for  assuming  that  the 
playing  of  Johann  Bach  and  his  colleagues  was  on  the  same  high  level. 
Aware  of  the  morale-building  effect  of  music,  the  Council,  in  1657,  added 
a  balcony  to  the  City  Hall,  on  which  the  band  performed  regularly  on 
Wednesday  and  Saturday  afternoons.  In  all  these  performances  Johann 
Bach  and  his  kinsmen  played  so  decisive  a  part  that  eventually  the  name 
of  Bach  became  a  synonym  for  town  musician,  and  maintained  this 
meaning  even  at  a  time  when  no  member  of  the  family  was  living  in 
Erfurt.  The  minutes  of  the  City  Council  expressly  refer  to  the  'local 
privileged  band  of  town  musicians  or  so-called  Bachs,'3  and  once  a  man 
by  the  name  of  Tobias  Sebelitzky  was  threatened  with  a  fine  of  5  th.  if 
he  engaged  for  his  daughter's  wedding  musicians  who  did  not  belong 
to  the  town  band  as  'no  others  but  the  Bachs  .  .  .  were  privileged  to 

This  decree  is  also  interesting  as  proof  of  the  authorities'  endeavours 
to  protect  their  town  musicians.  Playing  at  christenings,  weddings,  and 
funerals  made  up  the  larger  part  of  their  work  and  of  their  income  too, 
and  the  rates  for  such  performances  were  strictly  regulated  by  the  Council. 

1  Falckenstein,  'Civitatis  Erfurtensis  Historia  Critica  et  Diplomatica,'  Erfurt,  1740. 

2  Johann  Kuhnau,  'Der  musikalische  Quacksalber,'  1700;  reprint  by  Curt  Benndorf,  1900. 

3  Stadtarchiv  Erfurt,  Ratsprotokolle  of  December  1,  171 6, 

4  Stadtarchiv  Erfurt,  Ratsprotokolle,  1682. 

l6  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

These  so-called  Accidentien  were  especially  important  as  the  Council  itself, 
owing  to  the  tribulations  of  war,  was  often  unable  to  pay  its  employees 
for  years  at  a  time,  during  which  only  the  small  fees  collected  from  private 
persons  kept  the  musicians  going.  In  theory  the  regulations  forbidding 
other  than  the  town  musicians  to  perform  were  very  strict;  in  practice 
methods  to  bypass  the  law  were  found,  and  the  feuds  with  the  so-called 
'beer  fiddlers'  (musicians  not  holding  any  permanent  appointment)  were 
constantly  recurring  vexations  in  the  town  musicians'  existence. 

Besides  'blowing'  from  the  tower  and  performing  at  public  functions 
and  private  festivities,  the  town  musicians  were  required  to  play  in  the 
church  orchestra  and  were  supposed  to  master  both  stringed  and  wind 
instruments.  In  the  case  of  Johann  Bach,  his  duties  at  church  were  strictly 
regulated,  as  he  had  been  since  16361  organist  of  Erfurt's  Predigerkirche,  a 
beautiful  Gothic  church  of  the  13th  century.  It  speaks  for  the  high  esteem 
in  which  the  organist  was  held  that  he  succeeded  in  having  the  church's 
old  organ  rebuilt  by  the  renowned  master,  Ludwig  Compenius,  an  under- 
taking for  which,  in  spite  of  the  terrific  shortage  of  money,  the  amount  of 
1 46 1  fl.  was  raised  within  a  short  time.  Though  the  organist  knew  how 
to  solicit  funds  for  an  artistic  purpose,  he  was  unfortunately  less  able  to 
look  after  his  own  needs.  In  1669  Johann  found  it  necessary  to  complain 
that  within  twenty-two  years  he  had  no  more  than  once  received  the 
yearly  supply  of  a  Matter  (some  250  lbs.)  of  grain,  which  constituted  his 
only  fixed  honorarium  as  an  organist  at  the  daily  service  held  at  9  a.m. 

A  document  like  that  poignantly  illustrates  Johann's  economic  status. 
He  had  indeed  to  display  a  maximum  of  resourcefulness  and  frugality  in 
order  to  steer  his  household  through  those  precarious  times.  Nevertheless 
he  showed  the  hospitality  and  deep  sense  of  responsibility  to  the  entire 
family  which  we  meet  again  and  again  among  the  Bachs.  When  he  came 
to  Erfurt,  his  brother  Heinrich  (6)  stayed  with  him  until  being  called  to 
Arnstadt  in  1641,  while  two  brothers-in-law,  Johann  Christoph  and 
Zacharias  H.  Hoffmann,  studied  with  him  for  many  years. 

When  his  first  wife  died  giving  birth  to  a  still-born  child,  Johann, 
with  his  house  full  of  relatives,  had  quickly  to  marry  again.  He  chose 
Hedwig  Lammerhirt,  a  member  of  the  family  which  was  to  produce,  to 
its  lasting  glory,  the  mother  of  Sebastian  Bach. 

The  story  of  the  Lammerhirts  bears  a  significant  resemblance  to  that 
of  the  Bachs.  Though  they  were  apparently  of  Thuringian  origin — their 
name  occurs  as  early  as  1419  in  a  village  near  Gotha — they  lived  for 

1  Spitta  gives  the  year  1647  for  Johann  Bach's  appointment.  Johann  himself,  however, 
mentions  the  year  1636  in  a  tax  declaration  he  filed.  Cf.  Rollert,  l.c. 

in.  A  genealogical  tree  of  the  Bach  family  beginning  with  the  year  1530 

LIFE    OF    JOHANN  17 

several  generations  in  Lower  Silesia  in  Eastern  Germany.  Persecution  of 
their  faith  forced  them  to  leave  this  district  just  as  it  had  driven  Veit  out 
of  Hungary,  and  around  1620  they  took  up  their  residence  in  Erfurt, 
where  the  family,  which  followed  the  trade  of  furriers,  quickly  gained  a 
good  social  standing  and  a  modest  fortune.  They  owned  several  houses 
and  one  of  their  members,  Valentin  Lammerhirt,  was  three  times,  in  the 
years  1648,  1658,  1663,  the  representative  of  the  furriers'  guild  in  the 
City  Council.  He  must  have  given  his  daughter,  Hedwig,  a  good  dowry, 
for  she  was  able  to  buy  in  later  years,  at  a  price  of  120  fl.,  the  house  'The 
Three  Roses'  from  her  widowed  stepmother. 

Although  the  Lammerhirts  did  not  produce  any  professional 
musicians,  it  is  noteworthy  that  several  musicians  married  into  the  family. 
The  example  of  Johann  Bach  was  imitated  by  his  nephew,  Ambrosius 
Bach,  and  by  a  later  successor  to  Johann  Bach's  position  in  the  Prediger- 
kirche,  the  organist  Johann  Heinrich  Buttstadt.  Another  Lammerhirt  girl 
was  the  mother  of  the  distinguished  composer  and  music  scholar,  Johann 
Gottfried  Walther.  But  if  the  Lammerhirts'  musical  gifts  are  only  con- 
jectural, the  family's  strong  religious  feeling  seems  certain.  A  deeply 
mystical  strain  is  revealed  in  the  family's  faithful  attendance  at  the 
'Christian  music'  meetings  conducted  by  Esajas  Stiefel,1  an  eccentric 
heretic  who  was  influenced  by  the  tenets  of  the  Anabaptists.  He  believed 
that  every  Christian  should  strive  for  direct  contact  with  the  Divine 
Spirit,  and  in  his  meetings  music,  composed  partly  by  himself,  was  the 
principal  means  of  attaining  the  ecstasy  leading  to  union  with  God. 
Between  the  orthodox  Church  and  Stiefel  there  was  a  continual  feud,  his 
ideas  on  the  social  reforms  destined  to  establish  the  Kingdom  of  Heaven 
on  Earth  being  particularly  unpopular  with  the  authorities.  But  the 
Lammerhirts  held  firmly  to  their  beliefs,  just  as  the  Bachs  would  have 
done  in  a  like  situation;  and  when  Stiefel  was  sentenced  to  imprisonment, 
he  was  able  to  point  in  his  written  defence  to  three  men  of  the  highly 
respected  Lammerhirt  family  as  his  friends.  A  son  of  the  heretic  married 
a  Lammerhirt  girl  and  was  godfather  to  Johann  Christian  Bach  (7),  the 
eldest  surviving  son  of  Johann  and  Hedwig.  Undoubtedly  the  Lammer- 
hirts brought  a  new  element  into  the  Bach  clan:  a  certain  mysticism,  a 
passionate  striving  for  the  inner  vision  of  God,  which  was  to  be  one  of 
the  wellsprings  that  fed  Sebastian  Bach's  artistic  personality.  Whether  the 
children  of  Johann  and  Hedwig  showed  similar  traits  cannot  be  ascertained 
to-day,  but  we  know  that  they  were  fine  musicians  who  upheld  the  tradi- 

1  Cf.  P.  Meder,   'Der   Schwarmer,   Esajas   Stiefel,'   in    'Jahresbericht   des   Erfurter 
Geschichts-  und  Altertum-Vereins,'  1898. 

l8  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

tions  started  by  their  father.  The  eldest  son,  Johann  Christian  (7),  bom  in 
1640,  held  the  post  of  director  of  the  Erfurt  town  band.  When  he  died 
in  1682  from  the  plague,  his  younger  brother,  Johann  Egidius  (8),  born 
in  1645,  succeeded  him.  These  two  brothers  not  only  did  similar  work, 
but  had  as  wives  two  sisters,  daughters  of  the  town  piper  Schmidt  from 
Eisenach.  Egidius  seems  to  have  been  more  versatile  than  Christian,  for 
he  held,  like  his  father,  positions  both  as  organist  and  member  of  the 
town  band.  Another  son,  Johann  Nikolaus  (9),  born  1653,  a  city  musician 
like  his  brothers,  was  an  excellent  player  of  the  viola  da  gamba,  but  fell 
in  early  years  victim  to  the  plague  that  also  took  Johann  Christian.  If 
these  Bachs  composed  any  music  at  all,  it  has  not  been  preserved.  Great 
creative  gifts  can  be  proved  only  in  the  following  generation,  in  the 
person  of  Johann's  grandson,  Johann  Bernhard  (18). 


Johannes  (2) 

I  I  I 

Johann  (4)         Christoph  (5)= Maria  Magdalena  Heinrich  (6)= Eva  Hoffmann 

1604-73  1613-61 

Grabler,  1 614-61 


Joh.  Ambrosius  (11) 




Joh.  Michael  (14)    Maria  Catharina= Christ.  Herthum    Joh.  Gunther  (15) 
1648-94  1651-87  1651-1710  1653-83 


Joh.  Christoph  (22)        Joh.  Sebastian  (24)=Maria  Barbara 



1 684- 1 720 

Carl  Philipp  Emanuel  (46) 

little  is  known  about  the  life  of  Johann's  brother,  Christoph,  and  no 
composition  of  his  has  been  preserved.  He  was  born  at  Wechmar  in  161 3 
and  received  musical  instruction  from  his  father.  If  we  may  accept  the 
information  given  by  his  grandson  in  the  Genealogy,  Christoph  was 
interested  only  in  instrumental  music.  His  first  employment  was  as  a 
'court  servant'  to  the  Duke  of  Weimar.  This  probably  meant  that,  in 
addition  to  the  duties  of  a  valet  or  footman,  he  had  to  play  in  the 
sovereign's  band,  a  combination  of  work  frequently  to  be  found  in  this 
period.  About  1640  he  married  Maria  Magdalena  Grabler,  a  farmer's 
daughter  of  Prettin,  Saxony,  and  moved  to  Erfurt  to  work  with  his 
brother  as  town  musician.  Here  six  children  were  born  to  him,  among 
them  three  highly  musical  sons,  one  of  whom  was  to  become  the  father 
of  Sebastian.  In  1654  Christoph  was  called  to  Arnstadt  as  head  of  the 
town  musicians,  probably  on  the  recommendation  of  his  younger 
brother,  Heinrich,  who  had  been  living  there  since  1641.  Christoph's 
position  corresponded  in  various  respects  to  that  of  his  kinsman  and 


20  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

predecessor,  Caspar  Bach,  but  he  was  no  longer  required  to  do  watch 
duty  and  to  live  in  the  tower.  According  to  the  contract  signed  by  the 
Count  of  Schwarzburg-Arnstadt,1  he  was  expected  to  'serve  with  his 
assistants  faithfully,  proficiently  and  dutifully,  both  at  church  and  at 
court,  performing  on  viols  and  wind  instruments.'  His  yearly  salary 
amounted  to  only  35  fl.,2  from  which  he  had  also  to  defray  his  rent.  For 
this  pitifully  inadequate  cash  allowance  he  was  somewhat  compensated 
by  the  allotment  of  10  Mass  (about  one  ton)  of  grain  and  the  right  to 
brew  about  1100  quarts  of  ale  taxfree.  Moreover  the  exclusive  right  of 
performing  at  weddings  and  funerals  was  guaranteed  to  him.  Neverthe- 
less it  was  hard  for  a  large  family  to  make  ends  meet,  and  in  1661  we  see 
Christoph  applying  for  a  position  in  the  city  of  Naumburg.  But  before  this 
matter  was  settled  he  died,  and  only  twenty-four  days  later  his  widow 
followed  him.  Christoph  seems  to  have  been  less  interesting  and  creative 
an  artist  than  his  two  brothers.  Yet  the  heritage  he  transmitted  was  any- 
thing but  negligible.  Through  his  marriage  to  the  girl  from  Saxony  he 
added  important  features  to  the  Bach  character.  There  is  considerable 
divergence  between  the  imaginative,  full-blooded  Thuringians  and  the 
more  energetic  and  intellectual  inhabitants  of  Saxony,  and  the  descendants 
of  Christoph  and  Magdalena  were  bound  to  be  different  from  other 
branches  of  the  clan. 

Johannes  Bach's  third  son,  Heinrich,  born  in  161 5,  showed  as  a  lad 
tremendous  interest  in  the  organ,  and  since  his  native  village  of  Wechmar 
did  not  then  possess  any  such  instrument,  he  used  to  walk  on  Sundays 
for  miles,  just  to  hear  an  organ  played  in  some  other  town.  He  studied 
music  with  his  father  and  his  eldest  brother,  Johann,  and  for  six  years 
worked  under  the  latter  in  Erfurt,  until  in  1641  he  was  appointed  organist 
in  Arnstadt,  an  office  which  he  held  for  more  than  fifty  years.  Now  he 
was  ready  to  set  up  a  household  of  his  own.  He  chose  Eva  Hoffmann,  a 
sister  of  Johann's  first  wife,  Barbara.  That  two  brothers  should  marry 
two  sisters  was  by  no  means  unusual  among  the  Bachs.  Indeed,  two  sons 
of  Johann  as  well  as  two  sons  of  Heinrich  imitated  their  father's  example 
in  this  respect.  The  union  of  Heinrich  and  Eva  was,  in  the  words  of  the 
preacher  J.  G.  Olearius,  a  'peaceful,  blessed  and  loving'  one,  which  lasted 
through  thirty-seven  years.  Eva  was  the  daughter  of  the  town  musician 
of  Suhl  (cf.  p.  13),  and  the  mixture  of  the  heritages  from  two  musicians' 
families  seems  to  have  produced  particularly  favourable  results,  for  the 

1  The  complete  document  is  reproduced  in  German  by  Wiegand,  I.e. 

2  To  give  an  idea  of  the  value  of  a  fl.,  we  might  mention  that  in  1653  1  lb.  of  beef  cost 
20  pf.,  2  lbs.  of  bread  1  gr.,  a  pair  of  soles  for  men's  shoes  12  gr.  Cf.  Rollberg  in  BJ,  1927. 


couple  had  three  sons  of  outstanding  musical  talent.  The  father  was  their 
teacher  and  must  have  thoroughly  enjoyed  such  pupils.  But  while  life  in 
all  human  aspects  was  satisfactory  enough,  the  economic  conditions 
presented  grave  problems.  The  lot  of  organists  in  Germany  had  never 
been  a  good  one,  and  even  in  1619,  before  the  war  had  critically  affected 
the  whole  economy,  Michael  Praetorius  had  to  complain:1  'It  is  regrett- 
able how  very  small  are  the  salaries  paid  even  in  some  illustrious  cities 
to  their  masterly  organists.  These  men  can  make  but  a  wretched  living 
and  sometimes  even  curse  their  noble  art  and  wish  they  had  learned  how 
to  be  a  cowherd  or  some  humble  artisan  instead  of  an  organist.'  At  the 
time  when  Heinrich  settled  down  in  Arnstadt,  the  small  principality  was 
destitute  through  war  taxations  and  other  tribulations,  and  neither  the 
Count  of  Schwarzburg  nor  the  city  fathers  were  in  a  position  to  pay  their 
servants  regularly.  Heinrich  was  entitled  to  a  salary  of  52  fl.2  a  year  plus 
5  fl.  for  rent;  yet  three  years  after  his  appointment  he  was  forced  to  com- 
plain to  the  Count  that  he  had  not  received  any  remuneration  for  a  whole 
year,  and  before  that  had  'to  beg  for  it  almost  with  tears.'  The  treasurer, 
when  ordered  by  the  sovereign  immediately  to  satisfy  the  organist, 
merely  promised  he  would  endeavour  to  do  so,  hinting  that  the  disastrous 
state  of  finances  made  continual  payments  quite  impossible.  However, 
Heinrich  somehow  managed  to  keep  his  family  from  starvation,  probably 
mainly  thanks  to  his  own  piece  of  land;  and  it  bears  testimony  to  their 
resilience  and  vitality  that  of  his  six  children  five  reached  maturity,  a  feat 
rare  in  those  times.  Heinrich  himself  took  all  hardships  with  fortitude 
and  even  cheerfulness,  and  he  was,  like  his  great-grandson,  Philipp 
Emanuel,  always  ready  for  a  joke.  His  never-failing  friendliness  made  him 
beloved  by  everybody.  When  he  had  to  test  a  very  mediocre  musician 
for  the  work  of  organist  in  Rockhausen,  he  reported  to  the  Consistory 
that  the  man  was  'able  enough  for  the  salary  allowed,'  thus  getting  the 
applicant  the  position  and  at  the  same  time  enjoying  a  gentle  reproach  to 
the  authorities  for  their  miserable  salaries.  His  modesty  is  revealed  by  the 
fact  that  only  after  serving  for  thirty-one  years  in  Arnstadt  did  it  occur 
to  him  to  ask  for  the  yearly  allotment  of  grain  which  his  predecessor  used 
to  receive.  While  this  request  was  granted,  his  superiors  were  less  accommo- 
dating in  other  respects.  When  Heinrich's  two  elder  sons  found  positions 
in  cities  nearby,  their  father  often  felt  tempted  to  visit  them.  Although  he 
left  a  substitute  to  take  care  of  his  duties,  he  was  reprimanded  for  repeated 
absences  and  urged  not  to  leave  the  town  without  special  permission. 

1  'Syntagma  Musicum,'  II/89. 

2  Subsequently  he  received  another  20  fl.  from  a  trust  fund. 

22  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

Here  we  meet  for  the  first  time  with  a  particular  difficulty  under  which  all 
the  Bachs  laboured.  According  to  the  custom  of  the  time,  both  court  and 
town  musicians  were  greatly  restricted  in  their  movements,  and  the  Bachs, 
who  all  possessed  a  strong  sense  of  independence,  deeply  resented  this 
state  of  affairs  and  transgressed  again  and  again.  From  Heinrich,  through 
Sebastian,  to  Friedemann  Bach,  conflicts  with  the  authorities  arose  from 
such  causes. 

At  the  age  of  67  Heinrich  petitioned  the  Consistory  to  appoint 
his  youngest  son,  Johann  Giinther  (born  1653),  his  deputy.  The 
authorities  complied,  and  presently  young  Giinther  married  the  daughter 
of  a  former  mayor  of  the  town.  Their  joy  was  not  to  last  long,  however, 
for  only  five  months  later  Giinther  died  suddenly  at  the  age  of  30.1 
As  Heinrich  was  now  left  quite  alone,  his  wife  having  died  in  1679,  he 
went  to  live  with  his  daughter,  Maria  Catharina,  and  her  husband, 
Christoph  Herthum,  who  was  both  organist  and  kitchen-clerk  to  the 
Count  of  Arnstadt.  Herthum  gradually  took  over  Heinrich's  duties,  as 
the  old  man  was  less  and  less  able  to  move  around,  and  was  assisted  in 
1689-90  by  Sebastian  Bach's  eldest  brother,  Johann  Christoph  (22).  In  the 
end  Heinrich  was  blind  and  bedridden,  but  he  did  not  lose  the  composure 
that  had  upheld  him  through  all  the  hardships  of  his  long  life.  A  great 
joy  were  his  grand-  and  great-grandchildren  (altogether  twenty-eight  in 
number),  who  read  his  favourite  religious  works  to  him.  When  he  felt 
his  end  near,  he  wrote  to  the  Count  on  January  14,  1692: 

'Through  God's  graciousness  I  have  for  more  than  fifty  years  been 
organist  here,  but  for  some  time  I  have  been  laid  up  and  I  am  now 
expecting  a  blissful  ending  from  God.  During  my  illness  my  son-in-law 
has  done  my  work  to  the  satisfaction  of  your  Lordship,  the  ministers,  and 
the  whole  community.  After  my  death  the  service  will  have  to  be  entrusted 
to  a  suitable  person,  and  as  I  am  daily  expecting  my  blissful  passing,  I 
have  wanted  to  present  my  humble  request  on  my  deathbed  . . .  that  your 
Highness  shall  be  pleased  to  favour  your  kitchen-clerk  with  this  position, 
on  account  of  his  well-known  perfection  and  outstanding  art,  and  make 
him  my  successor  before  I  depart.  Such  graciousness  will  give  me 
particular  joy  and  consolation  in  my  miserable  condition,  and  I  will  not 
fail,  while  I  am  still  alive,  most  humbly  to  implore  the  Highest  day  and 

1  His  widow,  Barbara  Margaretha,  married  one  year  later  an  Arnstadt  clergyman, 
whom  she  lost  after  four  years.  She  let  six  years  elapse  and  then  married  another  Bach, 
Ambrosius,  the  father  of  Sebastian.  Again  misfortune  struck  and  she  lost  her  third  husband 
two  months  after  the  wedding. 


night  that  He  shall  bless  your  Lordship  and  keep  your  Lordship  and  his 
gracious  spouse  in  good  health  and  long  life.' 

The  matter-of-fact  way  in  which  Heinrich  refers  here  to  his  forth- 
coming death  is  highly  characteristic  of  this  deeply  religious  man,  and 
of  the  period  in  which  he  lived.  His  intense  preoccupation  with  death 
(which  we  shall  find  again  in  his  grand-nephew,  Sebastian)  is  also  revealed 
by  the  fact  that  as  long  as  Heinrich  could  move  about  he  attended  every 
funeral,  even  that  of  the  poorest  person.  The  last  wish  of  the  old  organist 
was  fulfilled  and  Herthum  was  appointed  his  substitute  cum  spe  succedendu 
A  few  months  later  Heinrich  was  'gently  and  blissfully  called  from  this 
temporary  abode'  (Olearius).  Hardly  ever  had  a  funeral  in  the  little  town 
been  so  well  attended  as  that  of  the  beloved  musician. 

Artistically,  Heinrich's  interest  centred  round  keyboard  instruments. 
It  is  probable  that  he  performed  on  the  clavier  when  he  was  called  to 
Court,  but  his  main  occupation  was  that  of  playing  the  organ  in  Arnstadt's 
two  big  churches,  the  Oberkirche  and  Liebfrauenkirche,  and  he  enjoyed  a 
very  great  reputation  as  an  outstanding  virtuoso.  The  work  of  an 
organist  in  those  times  was  highly  responsible.  He  had  not  only  to  accom- 
pany, but  frequently  to  conduct  the  chorus.  He  was  expected  to  be 
thoroughly  familiar  with  the  old  traditional  music,  and  at  the  same  time 
to  master  the  new  forms  introduced  from  Italy,  and  elsewhere.  Great 
skill  in  improvising  fugues  and  chorale  variations  was  required  of  him, 
and  a  candidate  had  to  prove  his  craftsmanship  and  superior  knowledge 
in  this  respect  before  he  was  appointed  to  a  more  important  position.1 
All  this  Heinrich  Bach  did  to  perfection  and  he  was  not  only  a  master  of 
improvisation,  but,  as  Emanuel  Bach,  his  great-grandson,  proudly 
proclaimed,  'a  good  composer.' 


The  Baroque  period,  covering  the  phase  from  the  end  of  the  16th  to 
the  middle  of  the  18th  century,  showed  in  the  field  of  music  numerous 
features  distinguishing  it  from  the  preceding  Renaissance. 

The  compositions  displayed  a  new  quality  of  excitement  and  strong 
emotionalism.  Sharp  dissonances  never  before  used  to  such  an  extent 

1  Cf.  Arno  Werner  in  SIMG,  IX,  310  and  foil. 

24  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

were  now  employed,  and  the  halftone  progressions  of  chromaticism  began 
to  play  an  important  part  in  the  melodic  language.  Contrary  to  the  calm 
evenness  of  the  Renaissance  music,  the  Baroque  period  tended  towards 
dramatic  changes  in  tempo  and  dynamics.  The  pleasure  taken  in  rhythmic 
and  colouristic  variety  led  to  a  predilection  for  the  variation-form,  which 
at  the  same  time  satisfied  an  urge  for  structural  unity.  Once  more  com- 
posers discovered  the  unlimited  potentialities  of  the  solo  human  voice, 
both  for  dramatic  expression  and  for  producing  beautifully  sounding 
tunes.  The  highest  part,  the  melody,  became  a  dominating  factor  in  every 
composition;  but  it  had  to  share  the  limelight  with  the  sustaining  bass, 
the  basso  continuo,  the  performers  of  which  were  also  entrusted  with  the 
improvisation  of  the  filling  middle  parts. 

Strong  contrasts  were  used  throughout  the  works  of  art.  Baroque 
music  might  be  sweet  and  tender,  and  then  again  powerful  and  monu- 
mental. The  bowed  string  instruments,  and  in  particular  the  violin,  which 
matched  the  human  voice  in  mellowness  and  expressiveness  of  tone, 
became  the  favourites  of  the  period;  at  the  same  time  the  musical  palette 
was  enriched  by  the  construction  of  the  mighty  double  bassoon  and  the 
contrabass  trombone.  The  stile  concertato  with  its  vigorously  competing 
sound  groups  played  a  prominent  part  both  in  instrumental  and  vocal 
music,  in  secular  as  well  as  in  sacred  compositions. 

Protestant  church  music,  on  which  the  first  masters  of  the  Bach 
family  concentrated,  was  bound  to  show  the  main  features  of  Baroque 
art.  It  is  true  that  the  novel  ideas  emanating  from  Italy  reached  Germany, 
and  especially  its  smaller  cities,  only  several  decades  later;  nevertheless 
the  cantors  and  organists  of  little  Thuringia  were  as  eager  to  keep  up 
with  the  progressive  trends  in  music  as  their  colleagues  in  larger  centres. 
The  core  of  the  Lutheran  service  was  formed  by  the  German  hymns, 
called  chorales,  as  they  were  sung  in  unison  or  choraliter  by  the  congrega- 
tion. The  finest  of  these  texts  and  tunes  originated  in  the  16th  century, 
but  all  through  the  Baroque  period  additions  were  made,  with  new  tunes 
frequently  derived  from  secular  sources.  In  particular  the  sacred  aria,  a 
hymn  assuming  a  more  personal  and  subjective  character,  was  cultivated 
by  17th-century  composers. 

The  motet  in  which  each  voice  could  be  sung,  although  the  reinforce- 
ment by  instruments  was  favoured,  also  went  back  to  Renaissance  sources. 
Nevertheless  the  frequent  use  of  two  competing  choruses,  and  the 
dramatic  combination  of  Bible-word  and  hymn  texts  were  dictated  by  the 
spirit  of  the  Batoque.  Most  exciting  were  those  motets  in  which  one 
voice  presented  in  long-extended  notes  a  chorale  melody  with  its  words, 

MUSIC    OF    JOHANN  2<y 

while  at  the  same  time  a  text  from  the  Gospel  was  interpreted  by  the  rest 
of  the  singers. 

The  connection  with  the  past  was  less  noticeable  in  those  vocal  com- 
positions which  also  prescribed  independent  instrumental  parts.  The 
sacred  concerto  sometimes  made  use  of  traditional  chorale  melodies,  and 
at  others  it  was  freely  invented.  The  treatment  of  the  human  voices  was 
more  brilliant  than  in  the  motets,  with  ample  opportunities  for  the  display 
of  technical  skill  and  an  individual  interpretation  of  the  text.  The  instru- 
ments were  no  longer  confined  to  mere  accompaniment.  They  alternated 
with  the  voices,  and  a  purely  instrumental  introduction  to  a  concerto  was 
not  unusual.  In  its  numerous  forms — for  a  single  voice,  as  a  dialogue,  or 
as  a  composition  for  three  and  more  solo  voices,  mostly  with  chorus — 
it  paved  the  way  for  the  great  church  cantatas  of  the  18th  century. 

In  their  compositions  of  pure  instrumental  music,  the  Bachs  confined 
themselves  to  works  for  the  keyboard,  intended  mainly  for  the  church. 
It  had  been  an  old  habit  of  the  Lutheran  service  that  not  all  the  countless 
verses  of  a  hymn  were  sung  by  the  congregation.  Some  of  them  were 
performed  by  the  chorus,  others  by  the  organist,  in  a  more  or  less  poly- 
phonic setting.  For  such  purposes  the  great  masters  of  the  17th  century 
wrote  whole  sets  of  chorale-variations  to  be  played  on  the  organ,  as  well 
as  individual  chorale-preludes,  resembling  a  single  one  of  these  variations. 

It  is  noteworthy  that  such  chorale  preludes  often  display  the  same 
construction  as  the  chorale-motet,  just  as  the  instrumental  fugues  of  the 
time  resemble  their  vocal  counterparts.  Variations  on  a  chorale,  to  be 
played  in  church  on  an  organ,  use  a  technique  similar  to  that  of  variations 
on  a  dance-tune  meant  for  secular  purposes  and  employing  a  stringed 
clavier.  As  organ  music  of  the  17th  century  usually  has  no  separate  pedal 
parts,  modern  research  students  often  find  it  quite  difficult  to  determine 
whether  a  composition  was  meant  for  the  'king  of  instruments'  or  for  a 
clavier  equipped  with  strings. 

Altogether  the  ambiguousness  and  interchangeability  of  musical 
idioms  which  is  still  noticeable  in  the  works  of  Sebastian  Bach  constitute 
one  of  the  most  intriguing  aspects  of  this  music. 

Three  compositions  by  Johann  Bach  have  been  preserved  in  the  Alt- 
Bachisches  Archiv,  a  collection  of  Bach  works  started  by  Ambrosius  Bach 
and  continued  by  his  son,  Sebastian.  The  invaluable  documents  were 
passed  on  to  Philipp  Emanuel  Bach  and  after  his  death  came  into  the 
possession  of  one  Georg  Polchau  and  Goethe's  friend,  Carl  Friedrich 
Zelter.  These  two  men  authorized  in  1821  a  first  publication  of  nine  of 
these  pieces  through  Johann  Friedrich  Naue,  music  director  of  the  Halle 

26  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

University.  His  edition  is  unfortunately  marred  by  numerous  omissions, 
arbitrary  additions,  and  even  changes  of  the  names  of  the  composers. 
Nevertheless,  for  almost  a  century  it  was  the  main  source  for  knowledge 
of  the  music  of  the  older  Bachs,  since  the  original  manuscripts  were 
transferred  to  the  Berlin  Singakademie,  whence  they  mysteriously  dis- 
appeared. They  were  rediscovered  at  the  end  of  the  First  World  War 
through  the  efforts  of  Max  Schneider.  His  publication  of  numerous  scores 
in  EDM  i  and  2  (1935)  offers  a  solid  basis  for  the  research  on 
Sebastian's  ancestors. 

Simplest  in  character  is  Johann  Bach's  aria  for  four  voices  Weint 
nicht  um  meinen  Tod  (Don't  mourn  my  death).  The  brief  melody  used 
for  each  of  the  nine  verses  of  the  text  is  harmonized  in  a  completely 
homophonic  four-part  style.  Obviously  it  can  also  be  performed  as  a 
piece  for  soprano  solo  with  organ  accompaniment.  The  unassuming  com- 
position with  its  attractive,  partly  modal  chord  sequences,  displays  both 
simple  dignity  and  beauty.  The  constant  changes  of  its  free  rhythms 
provide  the  melody  with  inner  life  and  unfettered  pulsation  {Ex  1). 


"Weini  nichtum  mei.  nen         Tod,  icli  Tiai'  in     fro  .  Acn  Sit. gen  nun         vol .  lig  u  .  btr.stie  .   _  yen 

The  flexible  declamation  in  this  aria  contrasts  favourably  with  the 
monotonous  isometric  chorales  of  a  later  generation,  which  give  to  each 
note  the  same  length. 

Johann's  eight-part  motet  for  two  choruses  Sei  nun  wieder  ^ufrieden 
(Be  contented  again;  Schn.1  30)  was  published  by  Naue,  in  the  early  19th 
century,  as  a  composition  by  Johann  Michael  Bach,  although  the  original 
parts  clearly  indicate  the  authorship  of  the  older  composer.  Besides,  the 
simple  and  austere  style  of  the  composition  distinguishes  it  from  the 
smoother  and  more  elaborate  writings  of  Johann  Michael.  The  composer 
uses  a  purely  homophonic  technique,  similar  to  that  of  the  aria,  but  there 
are  no  strophic  repetitions  of  the  tune.  As  soon  as  the  whole  text  has  been 
dealt  with,  the  motet  abruptly  reaches  its  end.  The  composition  derives 
its  effect  mainly  from  the  contrast  in  tone-colour  produced  by  the  employ- 
ment of  two  choruses  of  four  voices  each.  One  is  a  higher-pitched  group 
of  two  sopranos,  one  alto  and  one  tenor;  the  other  a  lower-pitched  group 
of  an  alto,  two  tenors  and  a  bass.  Each  part  of  the  higher  chorus  is  re- 

1  The  works  of  the  older  Bachs  are  quoted  according  to  Schneider's  catalogue  in 
BJ,  1907  (see  list  of  Abbreviations).  Weint  nicht  um  meinen  Tod  is  missing  in  this 



inforced  by  an  instrument,  presumably  stringed,  while  there  is  no  re- 
inforcement of  the  lower  chorus.1  This  work  is  of  solid  craftsmanship, 
although  the  absence  of  a  clear  formal  construction  somewhat  weakens 
its  effectiveness. 

On  quite  a  different  level  is  the  third  composition  of  Johann  Bach, 
the  chorale  motet  Unser  Leben  ist  ein  Schatten  (Our  life  is  but  a  shadow ; 
Schn.  31),  a  work  of  weird  grandeur.  This  piece  too  was  wrongly  edited 
by  Naue  as  a  work  of  Johann  Michael  Bach,  although  the  original  score 
is  unmistakably  initialed  with  'J-  B.'  and  the  starkly  monumental  character 
of  the  music  should  have  warned  the  editor  that  it  is  the  product  of  an 
earlier  generation.  Following  the  general  tendency  of  the  time,  Johann 
effectively  combines  Bible  texts  and  church  hymns.  The  whole  motet  is 
constructed  in  a  sort  of  rondo  form,  with  three  chorales  separating  the 
hymn  quotations  from  the  Scriptures.  The  contrast  between  two  strongly 
differentiated  choruses  is  again  employed.  The  main  group  of  singers  con- 
sists of  six  parts,  two  sopranos,  one  alto,  two  tenors  and  one  bass,  while 
the  second  chorus  employs  only  one  alto,  tenor  and  bass  voice  each.  A 
most  unusual  feature  of  this  motet  is  the  composer's  own  designation  of  the 
small  choral  group  as  chorus  latens  (hidden  chorus).  The  six-part  chorus 
begins  with  a  description  of  the  frailty  and  uncertainty  of  human  life, 


iin  .  ser        Le.    ben     ist     ein       Sctiai: 

v  v  ft  '  r 

ein       Sch&i.ien, 

offering  a  weirdly  realistic  picture  of  quickly  moving  and  vanishing 
shadows  (Ex.  2).  This  sinister  picture  is  interrupted  by  the  hidden 

1  Max  Schneider,  who  edited  the  motet  in  EDM,  assumed  that  all  the  voices  were  to 
be  doubled  by  instruments.  This  does  not  seem  correct,  since  the  catalogue  of  the  Alt- 
Bachisches  Archiv,  printed  in  the  list  of  Philipp  Emanuel's  estate,  clearly  indicates  that  the 
composition  was  written  'for  8  vocal  parts  and  4  instruments.'  The  old  parts  which  are  our 
source  for  knowledge  of  the  composition,  contain  2  instrumental  parts  for  the  sopranos. 
As  the  4  voices  of  each  chorus  always  appear  as  a  compact  unit  and  are  never  separated,  it 
seems  obvious  that  the  remaining  2  instruments  were  used  to  reinforce  alto  and  tenor  in 
the  first  chorus.  Our  assumption  that  strings  were  employed  is  based  on  the  Bachs'  apparent 
preference  for  this  type  of  instrument. 

28  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

chorus,  intoning,  like  a  congregation  in  a  distant  church,  the  comforting 
message:  'In  the  darkness  of  the  grave  Jesus  is  my  shining  light' 
(fourth  and  fifth  stanzas  of  the  chorale  Ach  was  soil  ich  Sunder 
The  group  of  dejected  men  seem  to  derive  consolation  from  this 
heavenly  message,  and  in  complete  rapture  they  repeat  the  last  words 
of  the  prophecy.  The  terror  of  the  beginning  is  replaced  by  quiet  confi- 
dence when  the  main  chorus  sings  'I  am  the  resurrection  and  the  life.' 
A  hymn  of  the  hidden  chorus  follows,  again  intensified  by  certain  repeti- 
tions through  the  main  body.  With  the  words  1  depart'  the  vision 
of  the  distant  congregation  disappears  and  once  more  earth  seems  drab 
and  full  of  menace.  From  here  to  the  end  the  hopeless  mood  of  the 
beginning  dominates  the  work.  The  last  words  of  the  composition  seem 
to  have  come  out  of  the  very  heart  of  a  man  who  had  witnessed  the 
horrors  of  unending  war: 

O  Lord  teach  us  to  know  that  we  are  mortal, 

That  we  cannot  stay  on  this  earth, 

And  must  all  go; 

The  learned,  the  rich,  the  beautiful, 

They  must  all  go,  all  go. 

Striking,  like  the  whole  of  this  dramatic  and  unconventional  composition, 
is  also  its  ultimate  measure.  After  all  the  other  voices  have  ceased,  the 
two  sopranos  repeat  the  words  'all  go'  (davon)  like  a  last  sigh  {Ex.  3). 


dlt  0    .     dtr     schonjnus.sen  a.1  .lel,      dl .  le   da.. von,  da. von 


da  -  yon 

With  a  feeling  of  envy  and  frustration  the  music  lover  reads  in  the 
funeral  sermon  by  Olearius  of  the  different  chorales,  motets,  concertos, 
preludes  and  fugues  produced  by  Heinrich  Bach.  Of  all  the  numerous 
compositions  which  the  Arnstadt  organist  is  bound  to  have  accumulated 
during  a  long  and  laborious  existence  devoted  to  music,  only  a  single  one 
has  been  preserved.1  This,  however,  is  a  powerful  work,  worthy  in  every 
respect  of  the  high  reputation  enjoyed  by  its  composer.  Ich  danke  dir,  Gott 
(I  thank  Thee,  God;  Schn.  1)  is  an  excellent  specimen  of  the  stile  concertato. 

1  The  lament  Ach  dass  ich  W assets  gnug  hdtte,  listed  in  1907  by  Schneider  as  a  work 
of  Heinrich  Bach,  has  in  the  meantime  been  recognized  as  a  composition  of  his  son,  Johann 
Christoph  (cf.  p.  52).  The  two  chorale  preludes,  Christ  lag  in  Todesbanden  and  Erbarm 
dich  mein,  edited  by  Ritter  and  others  as  works  by  Heinrich  Bach,  are  by  a  composer  with 
the  initials  J.  H.  B.  (possibly  Johann  Heinrich  Buttstadt),  but  not  by  Heinrich  Bach. 


There  is  a  harmonious  contest,  a  permanent  rivalry  between  different 
sound  groups.  Under  the  influence  of  sacred  concertos  by  Scheidt,  Schiitz, 
and  others,  older  forms  of  church  composition  are  here  gradually 
assuming  features  of  the  1 8th-century  cantata.  The  human  voices  do  not 
dominate  the  composition  as  they  did  in  the  aria  and  motets  by  Johann 
Bach;  four  instruments,  two  violins  and  two  viols,  are  assigned  important 
parts.  The  vocal  body  is  subdivided  into  a  small  group  of  solo  singers  or 
favoriti  and  a  larger  chorus  of  accompanying  ripieni,  each  consisting  of  five 
parts,  viz.  two  sopranos,  an  alto,  a  tenor  and  a  bass.  Most  of  the  musical 
development  is  entrusted  to  the  instruments  and  to  the  favoriti,  while  the 
ripieni  are  employed  only  as  an  occasional  reinforcement.  A  spirited 
competition  between  upper  and  lower  voices  may  already  be  observed 
in  the  bright  and  gay  instrumental  Sinfonia  serving  as  an  introduction  to 
the  work.  The  following  vocal  section  introduces  a  powerful  homophonic 
setting  of  the  words  'I  thank  Thee,  God,'  in  which  the  whole  body  of 
sound  is  employed.  Then  the  favoriti  take  over,  using  a  transparent  style, 
rich  in  sparkling  coloraturas  and  not  unlike  the  performance  of  instru- 
mental soloists  in  a  contemporary  concerto  grosso  {Ex.  4).  At  key 

diss     Jf?i     wun  -  -  -     -  der_,wm3_-_.  .  .der.  ha.T.lich  gi.mzckl  bin, 

vim  .dcr.baT.lich gem&Al        da£s  icA      vim  der-,wim.     .  .   '  dcr- td&is  ithmin .  .   ..  der. 

points  of  the  composition,  especially  whenever  the  name  of  the  Lord 
is  mentioned,  and  at  the  end  of  the'cantata,  the  full  assembly  of  singers 
and]  players  ris  united  in  vigorous  plain  chords.  Heinrich's  unusual 
technical  skill,  but  more  still  the  emotional  fervour  and  unshakable  trust 
in  God  expressed  in  this  composition,  make  it  one  of  the  most  significant 
works  of  the  older  Bach  generation. 


Heinrich  (6) 

Joh.  Christoph  (13) 
1 642- 1 703 

Maria  Elisabeth  Wedemann 
1 646- 1 703 

Joh.  Giinther  (15) 

Joh.  Michael  (i4)  =  Catharina  Wedemann 



Maria  Barbara=Joh.  Sebastian  (24) 
1684-1720  1685-1750 

Joh.  Nicolaus  (27)        Joh.  Christoph  (28)        Joh.  Friedrich  (29)        Joh.  Michael  (30) 
1669-1753  1 676-?  1 682- 1 730  1 68 5-? 

the  scene  now  shifts  to  the  little  town  of  Eisenach,  beautifully  situated 
at  the  north-west  end  of  the  Thuringian  forest,  and  dominated  by  the 
imposing  medieval  castle  of  the  Wartburg.1  Eisenach  was  from  1662  to 
1 74 1  the  capital  of  a  miniature  duchy  which  had  come  into  existence 
through  the  partition  of  the  estate  of  the  Prince  of  Weimar,  and  its  rulers 
did  their  best  to  act  like  great  sovereigns  and  patrons  of  the  arts.  This  was 
not  easy,  as  the  pocket-size  territory  did  not  admit  the  raising  of  heavy 
taxes,  and  the  private  means  of  the  ducal  family  were  very  limited.  Thus 
it  came  about  that  many  interesting  personages  were  invited  to  Eisenach, 
who  after  a  short  stay  decided  to  move  to  another  place  which  offered 
more  scope  for  their  talents  and  better  financial  opportunities.  At  four 
different  times2  the  Dukes  secured  the  service  of  the  violinist,  Daniel 
Eberlin,  a  gifted  man  with  a  most  unusual  career  that  included,  besides 
musical  activities,  a  captainship  of  papal  troops  fighting  the  Turks,  and 
work  as  a  banker  in  Hamburg.  At  Eisenach  Eberlin  held  the  posts  of 
private  ducal  secretary  and  conductor,  and  at  one  time  even  that  of 
director  of  the  ducal  mint.  In  1677  Johann  Pachelbel,  the  great  organist 

1  For  a  poetical  description  of  Eisenach  and  the  Wartburg,  cf.  W.  G.  Whittaker, 
'The  Bachs  and  Eisenach,'  in  'Collected  Essays,'  London,  1940.  (See  also  111.  V.) 

2  Cf.  Wilhelm  Greiner,  'Die  Musik  im  Lande  Bachs,'  Eisenach,  1935. 


JOHANN    CHRISTOPH    ( 1 3)    AND    JOHANN    MICHAEL  31 

and  composer,  joined  the  court  orchestra  as  'Musicus,'  but  moved  as  early 
as  1678  to  Erfurt.  Later  the  ruler  succeeded  in  engaging  as  conductor 
Pantaleon  Hebenstreit,  a  renowned  dancing  master  and  inventor  of  the 
'Pantaleon,'  a  kind  of  dulcimer,  which  created  a  sensation  at  the  court  of 
Louis  XIV.  Hebenstreit  put  up  with  Eisenach  from  1706  to  1709,  and  was 
followed  by  no  less  a  master  than  Georg  Telemann,  who  remained  in 
the  little  Residenz  for  four  years. 

The  Eisenach  authorities  in  their  search  for  musical  talent  did  not,  of 
course,  overlook  the  Bach  family.  Heinrich's  reputation  as  a  masterly 
organist  had  travelled  far  beyond  Arnstadt,  and  when  in  1665  the  death 
of  the  city  organist  created  an  opening,  Heinrich's  eldest  son,  2 3 -year- 
old  Johann  Chris toph  (13),  who  worked  as  court  organist  in  Arnstadt, 
was  invited  for  the  customary  trial  performance.  The  young  musician 
passed  the  test  with  flying  colours,  but  had  to  get  permission  from  his 
patron,  the  Count  of  Schwarzburg-Arnstadt,  before  accepting  the  new 
position.  He  submitted  therefore  a  petition1  in  which  he  explained  that 
the  Eisenach  appointment  had  come  about  without  any  special  effort  on 
his  part  and  therefore  might  be  regarded  as  an  act  of  divine  providence. 
For  his  successor  he  suggested  his  younger  brother,  Johann  Michael,  an 
arrangement  acceptable  to  the  Count,  who  liked  to  see  a  member  of  the 
Bach  family  in  this  position  and  conferred  it  on  Heinrich  Bach's  son-in- 
law,  Christoph  Herthum,  when  Michael  moved  to  Gehren  in  1673.  Thus 
Johann  Christoph  was  duly  appointed  Eisenach's  city  organist,  which 
meant  that  he  had  to  play  in  the  three  churches  of  the  town,  in  particular 
in  the  Georgenkirche.  The  city  fathers  must  have  been  well  pleased  indeed. 
Here  was  a  young  and  extremely  able  musician,  who  had  been  brought 
up  and  trained  by  a  man  generally  beloved  for  his  great  art  and  his  gentle, 
modest  nature  as  well.  They  were  in  for  some  surprises,  however. 
Artistically  everything  was  satisfactory,  of  course;  the  organist  was  not 
merely  capable,  he  was  brilliant.  On  the  other  hand,  young  Bach  showed 
a  disappointing  unwillingness  to  put  up  with  the  hardships  of  an 
organist's  position  in  an  impecunious  little  town.  On  October  10,  1670, 
he  complained  to  the  superintendent  in  no  uncertain  words  :2 

'As  is  well  known  to  your  Honour,  the  complete  salaries  of  the  church 
employees  are  payable  at  the  end  of  the  year  only.  ...  I  was  therefore 

1  The  document  (Thiiringisches  Staatsarchiv,  Rudolstadt,  Sign.  679)  was  only 
recendy  unearthed  and  kindly  supplied  to  me  by  Mr.  Fritz  Wiegand,  Stadtarchivar, 

2  Superint.  Archiv  Eisenach:  B  25  B  1,  Bl.  4,  where  all  the  documents  referring  to 
Johann  Christoph,  unless  otherwise  mentioned,  are  preserved. 

32  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

instructed  by  the  Honoured  Council  to  collect  10  fl.  in  quarterly  instal- 
ments from  the  Hospital-Bursar,  Joseph  Herman,  to  defray  the  bare 
necessities  of  life  until  the  entire  salary  became  due  at  Michaelmas  day. 
With  sadness  I  have  to  report,  however,  that  this  sum  can  be  obtained 
only  very  slowly  from  the  Hospital-Bursar.  Either  he  sends  me  to  another 
place,  or  he  holds  out  hopes  for  the  future,  and  he  is  so  dilatory  with 
his  payment  that  one  loses  one's  credit  with  honest  people.  ...  As  it 
is  very  hard  for  me  to  subsist  with  my  family,  having  no  income  what- 
ever beside  my  salary,  I  cannot  help  informing  your  Honour  of  these 
facts.  ...  So  far,  whenever  an  instalment  has  been  due,  I  have  been 
obliged  to  send  for  this  money  so  often  that  I  felt  ashamed.  I  hope 
your  Honour  will  help  to  redress  this  as  I  have  had  to  report  it  out  of 
urgent  need.' 

We  don't  know  whether  Johann  Christoph's  request  was  granted,  but 
judging  from  subsequent  documents  in  Eisenach's  archives,  it  seems  that 
the  authorities  did  not  care  for  their  organist's  far  too  outspoken  approach. 
From  the  year  1679  another  lengthy  complaint  to  the  Consistory  is 
preserved.  This  time  the  organist  deplored  his  inability  to  collect  the 
Accidentien,  viz.  the  fees  to  which  he  was  entitled  for  playing  at  funerals, 
weddings,  or  christenings.  Only  too  often,  he  claimed,  the  bereaved  one, 
the  bridegroom,  or  the  happy  father  found  some  way  of  slipping  out  of 
his  obligation,  forgetting  to  remunerate  the  organist  at  all,  or  paying  him 
only  part  of  the  amount  prescribed.  Johann  Christoph  claimed  that  no 
less  than  46  fl.  20  gr.  (almost  half  as  much  as  his  basic  yearly  salary)  was 
outstanding  from  such  sources.  But  he  was  not  satisfied  just  to  complain; 
he  felt  he  ought  to  advise  his  superiors  how  to  remedy  the  abuse.  Why 
could  not  the  written  confirmation  of  published  banns  be  handed  to  the 
prospective  couple  only  after  they  had  paid  the  fee  for  the  organist?  The 
Consistory,  however,  apparently  did  not  like  to  receive  advice  from  Mr. 
Bach.  So  matters  went  on  as  before  and  petitions  survive  from  a  later  date 
to  show  that  Johann  Christoph  was  again  airing  his  grievances  about  un- 
paid wedding  fees.  On  this  occasion  he  pointed  out  that  whenever  needy 
persons  were  concerned  he  would  gladly  waive  his  fee,  provided  the 
other  church  employees  were  willing  to  do  the  same. 

Numerous  other  documents  reveal  the  organist's  eternal  problem  of 
finding  suitable  living  quarters.  While  the  house  in  Arnstadt  known  as 
that  of  Heinrich  Bach  was  occupied  by  him  throughout  the  greater  part 
of  his  long  life,  Johann  Christoph  changed  his  domicile  again  and  again. 
Excerpts  from  a  long  petition  he  wrote  on  February  15,  1692,  to  the 

iv.  Hans  Bach.  Engraving,  1617 








C/J       li       C/3 

re   p   3 



re  ! — i 

c  -£ 
•S   ° 

^      Oh 

1)    o 

£  o 

o  C 

re  3 

c  o 

v  u 

.52  bD 

.    re 

>  -a 

JOHANN    CHRISTOPH    ( 1 3)    AND    JOHANN    MICHAEL  33 

Burgomaster  and  City  Council  will  illustrate  the  wretched  position  of 
the  organist: 

'It  is  well  known  to  your  Honour  that  while  being  in  your  Honour's 
service  for  the  past  twenty -seven  years,  I  have  often  besought  your 
Honour  for  a  free  lodging.  I  was,  however,  unfortunate  in  not  achieving 
my  aim,  and  have,  to  my  gravest  detriment  and  misery,  been  forced  to 
move  from  one  place  to  another.  After  living  in  ten  different  rented 
houses,  I  felt  no  longer  able  to  bear  such  unsettled  conditions  and  decided 
to  buy  a  place  of  my  own.  As  I  had  no  means  available  to  pay  the  deposit, 
until  an  inheritance  from  my  hometown  of  Arnstadt  came  my  way  [this 
matter-of-fact  reference  to  the  impending  death  of  his  father  is  quite  in 
accordance  with  the  general  attitude  of  the  time!],  I  had  to  borrow  the 
capital  at  interest.  Afterwards  I  had  to  pay  for  indispensable  repairs  to  the 
house,  and  as  my  creditors  insist  on  payment,  while  the  expected  remit- 
tance [from  Arnstadt]  has  not  arrived,  I  am  again  cast  out  of  this  house, 
with  what  despair,  your  Honour,  knowing  my  domestic  circumstances, 
can  well  imagine.  ...  I  am  aware,  of  course,  that  I  was  favoured  only 
recently  with  an  increase  in  salary.  On  the  other  hand  your  Honour 
knows  that  from  1677  onward  more  work  has  been  given  me  on  Wednes- 
days and  Thursdays  [at  prayer  hours  and  confession  service],  which  I  had 
to  undertake  for  several  years  without  receiving  further  benefit,  and  I 
therefore  cannot  assume  that  this  [recent  increase]  will  now  be  held 
against  me. . . .' 

And  then,  in  the  typical  Johann  Christoph  Bach  manner,  which  was  so 
irritating  to  his  superiors,  he  suggested  that  the  house  occupied  by  a 
certain  teacher  of  a  German  school1  should  be  vacated  and  given  to  him; 
he  was  even  undiplomatic  enough  to  mention  the  necessity  of  making 
some  important  repairs  and  adding  a  cellar. 

The  City  Council  failed  to  be  impressed  by  the  organist's  plea, 
although  the  Ducal  Consistory  and  even  the  Duke  himself  intervened  in 
his  favour.  The  Council  felt  that  Bach  had  a  salary  on  which  he  could 
'honestly  subsist  in  an  orderly  life  and  household,'  while  the  city  funds 
were  depleted  and  the  house  in  question  could  not  possibly  be  vacated. 
Nevertheless  Johann  Christoph  tenaciously  fought  on,  and  even  after 
he  had  wrenched  a  contribution  of  10  th.  toward  his  rent  from  the  tight- 
fisted  Council,  the  correspondence  between  the  city  and  the  Duke  on 
his  behalf  continued.  At  last  the  city  fathers  cut  off  any  further  discussion 

1  The  leading  school  was  Eisenach's  Latin  school,  besides  which  there  existed  some 
German  schools. 

34  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

by  observing  spitefully:  'Perhaps  the  alleged  afflictions  are  due  to  a  dis- 
orderly household.  It  would  be  good  if  Bach  had  administered  the  alms 
more  satisfactorily  and  not  employed  them  adproprios  usus  [for  his  private 
good],'  a  remark  implying  that  the  organist  had  at  some  time  treated  the 
charitable  gifts  he  collected  for  the  church  as  an  advance  on  his  out- 
standing salary. 

The  Duke,  however,  did  not  take  this  accusation  seriously.  He  was 
far  more  aware  of  the  organist's  artistic  importance  than  the  city  fathers, 
and  was  therefore  intent  on  helping  him.  Since  1690  he  had  paid  Johann 
Christoph  a  separate  salary  for  service  in  the  ducal  band.  When  in  1694 
the  organist's  family  was  stricken  by  serious  illness,1  he  sent  them  food 
and  firewood,  continuing  such  contributions  at  regular  intervals  through- 
out the  following  year.  Finally  he  found  a  way  to  satisfy  the  artist's  great 
wish.  The  ducal  mint  building  had  been  vacated  in  1694,  when  the 
sovereign  decided  not  to  have  money  minted  there,  after  various  super- 
visors had  been  found  guilty  of  dishonesty.2  In  this  house  seven  rooms, 
attic,  and  stables  were  in  1796  put  at  the  disposal  of  the  overjoyed  Johann 
Christoph,  who  believed  that  his  troubles  were  now  over.  However, 
Duke  Johann  Georg  II  died  two  years  later  and  his  successor,  Johann 
Wilhelm,  decided  to  restore  the  mint  building  to  its  former  use,  with  the 
result  that  in  1700  the  unlucky  organist  again  had  to  start  househunting. 
To  soften  the  blow,  the  new  ruler  conferred  on  Johann  Christoph  the 
title  of  ducal  chamber  musician  and  allowed  him  a  yearly  salary  of  24  th., 
plus  a  single  payment  of  12  th.  for  a  uniform,  and  certain  supplies  of 
firewood,  rye,  and  barley.3  Moreover  he  urged  the  City  Council  to  grant 
the  organist  a  loan  of  300  th.  for  the  purpose  of  buying  a  certain  house 
Johann  Christoph  wished  to  acquire.  The  Council,  unco-operative  as 
ever,  refused,  but  suggested  three  other  houses  mortgaged  to  the  Duke, 
each  of  which  could  be  purchased  very  cheaply  if  the  Duke  waived  his 
claims.  These,  however,  did  not  suit  the  stubborn  organist,  and  so  the 
struggle  with  the  equally  stubborn  Councillors  went  on,  until  in  1702  a 
compromise  was  reached  and  Johann  Christoph  again  had  a  house  of  his 

1  Johann  Christoph  complained  in  a  letter  to  the  Duke  that  his  house  looked  like  a 
hospital,  and  the  church  entries  reveal  that  in  October  1694  six  persons  in  the  organist's 
household  were  given  private  communion.  It  is  also  significant  that  Johann  Christoph's 
third  son  was  234  times  absent  during  the  school -year  1693-94,  while  the  youngest  did  not 
attend  school  at  all  in  1695.  Cf.  Helmbold  in  BJ,  1930. 

2  Cf.  Friedrich  Schafer,  'Der  Organist  Johann  Christoph  Bach  und  die  Eisenacher 
Munze,'  Luginsland,  1929. 

3  In  the  decree  mention  is  made  of  the  organist's  'wretched  condition.'  Cf.  No.  471  in 
Weimarer  Archiv,  Eisenacher  Dienersachen. 

JOHANN    CHRISTOPH    ( 1 3)    AND    JOHANN    MICHAEL  35 

own.  But  he  was  not  to  enjoy  it  for  long;  one  year  afterwards  the  artist 
died  at  the  age  of  61.  The  funeral  sermon  was  preached  on  the  text  by 
Paul  Gerhardt:  The  head,  the  feet,  and  the  hands  are  glad  that  now  the 
end  of  toiling  has  come.'  The  choice  seems  appropriate,  for  Johann 
Christoph  must  have  been  worn  out  from  continuous  petty  worries. 

It  is  not  a  pretty  story,  this  life  of  an  artist  who  may  be  considered  the 
greatest  Bach  before  Sebastian.  The  numerous  documents  preserved1 
paint  a  tragic  picture  of  ever-recurring  financial  troubles  and  desperate 
attempts  to  solve  them,  attempts  which  entangled  the  artist  more  and 
more.  At  the  time  he  died,  he  had,  for  instance,  received  his  salary  for 
three  years  in  advance,  probably  in  order  to  pay  for  his  house.  It  seems 
as  though  the  artist  had  never  led  anything  but  a  harassed  existence.  Yet 
his  salary  was  not  bad,  as  salaries  went  in  those  days.  He  had  116  fl.  a 
year  from  the  city,  plus  the  customary  Accidentien  and  the  salary  from 
the  Duke.  This  was  by  no  means  a  starvation  income  and  his  father  had 
subsisted  on  much  less.  But  Johann  Christoph,  conscious  of  his  artistic 
mastery,  felt  himself  entitled  to  a  better  way  of  life.  When  he  was  estab- 
lished in  Eisenach  and  thus  able  to  marry,  he  chose  as  his  bride  Maria 
Elisabeth  Wedemann,  who  came  from  a  family  of  higher  social  standing. 
His  father-in-law  was  town  clerk  and  syndic  of  Arnstadt,  and  a  brother- 
in-law  was  to  be  mayor  of  the  town.  An  invitation  to  the  wedding  has 
been  preserved  and  it  seems  that  a  rather  elaborate  feast  took  place  in 
honour  of  the  occasion.  Moreover  in  Eisenach  the  couple  aimed  at  a 
standard  of  living  superior  to  that  of  their  colleagues.  For  instance  the 
house  Johann  Christoph  owned  in  1679  was  so  large  that  he  had  to  pay 
four  times  as  much  tax  on  it  as  was  assessed  on  his  cousin  Ambrosius' 
property.2  In  the  schooling  of  his  children  too  Johann  Christoph  did  not 
conform  to  custom.  While  most  musicians  took  their  sons  out  of  the 
Latin  school  at  the  age  of  14  or  15  in  order  to  apprentice  them  with  a 
member  of  their  profession,  two  sons  of  the  organist  stayed  there  up  to 
the  age  of  21  and  20  respectively,  and  the  eldest  even  went  to  the  Univer- 
sity of  Jena,  an  enterprise  on  which  no  other  Bach  of  his  generation  had 
ventured.  All  this  must  have  seemed  somewhat  presumptuous  to  the 
Eisenach  Council  and  it  served  to  aggravate  still  further  the  city  fathers' 
feelings  against  their  difficult  employee.  He  was  certainly  anything  but 
popular  with  the  city  authorities;  yet  they  did  not  allow  him  to  take 
another  post.  Johann  Christoph  once  had  a  chance  to  leave  the  stifling 

1  The  basic  research  was  made  by  Schumm  and  Rollberg.  Cf.  Bibliography. 

2  Cf.  Tax  registers  for  1679.  The  organist  paid  1  fl.  6  gr.  6  pf.,  while  Ambrosius 
paid  6  gr. 

36  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

atmosphere  of  Eisenach,  being  offered  in  1686  the  position  of  town 
organist  in  the  city  of  Schweinfurt.  He  accepted  joyfully,  but  had  to 
write  a  few  weeks  later  that  neither  the  Council  nor  the  Duke  of  Eisenach 
was  willing  to  grant  him  permission  to  leave.1 

Only  in  one  respect  was  a  satisfactory  intercourse  maintained  between 
the  Council  and  the  organist.  The  authorities  could  not  help  being  im- 
pressed by  Johann  Christoph's  continuous  endeavours  on  behalf  of  the 
organ  entrusted  to  his  care.  The  instrument  of  St.  George's  built  in  1576 
was  proving  more  and  more  inadequate.  In  the  first  decades  of  his  service, 
the  organist  merely  succeeded  in  having  the  worst  defects  repaired,  but 
ultimately  he  convinced  the  Council  that  a  thorough  rebuilding  of  the 
instrument  was  imperative.  His  own  draft  of  the  contract  with  the  organ 
builder,  Georg  Christoph  Stertzing,  dated  March  19,  1696,  is  preserved.2 
It  comprises  ten  pages  and  offers  an  interesting  insight  into  Johann 
Christoph's  mastery  of  the  subject.  But  even  when  the  draft  was  accepted, 
the  organist  did  not  feel  quite  satisfied.  He  continued  pondering  the 
problem  of  how  to  get  a  really  first-rate  instrument,  and  in  the  following 
months  he  presented  so  many  additional  suggestions,  that  the  Council 
eventually  voted  on  ordering  a  new  instrument  from  Stertzing,  using 
only  some  material  from  the  old  organ.  Johann  Christoph  not  only 
worked  out  all  the  specifications,3  but  tried  to  obtain  better  performing 
conditions  for  the  church  musicians.  He  urged  the  'building  of  a  so-called 
half-moon  (in  front  of  the  organ),  such  as  was  found  in  other  high-class 
churches'  and  the  addition  of  'two  little  choir-lofts  on  both  sides  of  the 
half-moon.  This  would  provide  in  the  nicest  manner  for  the  performance 
of  two-chorus  motets,  a  convenience  never  yet  enjoyed  in  Eisenach.' 
When  he  submitted  his  last  project  for  improvement  on  October  30, 1697, 
he  made  the  following,  very  characteristic  remarks:  'There  is  no  profit 
for  myself  in  this,  but  I  have  the  interests  of  the  church,  the  town,  and 
the  organ  at  heart,  and  I  take  care  of  the  instrument  as  though  I  were  to 
play  it  in  all  eternity.  ...  As  we  have  now  come  so  near  to  having  an 
exquisite  organ,  it  would  be  a  shame  not  to  afford  the  little  that  is  still 
necessary.  After  all,  the  money  for  this  is  not  needed  right  away;  there  is 
still  time  to  obtain  it.  Thus  we  shall,  with  God's  help,  get  a  very  fine 
instrument,  which  will  bring  us  fame  and  honour  far  and  wide,  especially 

1  Three  letters  on  this  matter  are  preserved  in  copies  in  the  Bach  Museum  of 
Eisenach,  according  to  kind  information  by  the  Curator,  Dr.  Conrad  Freyse. 

2  Cf.  Werner  Wolffheim,  'Die  alte  Orgel  zu  St.  Georg  in  Eisenach,'  Eisenacher 
Tagespost,  191 1,  and  Hans  Loffler,  'Nachrichten  uber  die  St.  Georgenkirche  in  Eisenach,' 
in  'Zeitschrift  fur  evangelische  Kirchenmusik,'  IV,  V. 

3  They  were  reproduced  in  Adlung's  'Musica  mechanica  organoedi,'  1768. 

JOHANN    CHRISTOPH    ( 1 3)    AND    JOHANN    MICHAEL  37 

with  organ  and  music  experts,  while  other  towns  in  the  neighbourhood 
won't  be  pleased  about  it.  As  for  myself,  I  will  .  .  .  gladly  do  my  share 
and  advise  the  builder  regarding  this  or  that  stop,  so  that  each  is  accurately 
measured,  correctly  pitched,  and  all  the  notes  within  each  stop  are  of 
equal  tone,  and  well-sounding.  For  whenever  you  find  a  well  planned 
fine  organ,  good  organists  flock  to  it.  Indeed,  an  instrument  of  such  a  kind 
makes  good  organists.  How  greatly  would  it  have  helped  me  in  my  work 
and  profession,  had  I  had  since  1665  such  an  organ  under  my  hands!' 

Johann  Christoph's  characteristic  insouciance  in  money  matters  for 
once  proved  justified;  for  when  in  1698  a  general  collection  was  started 
for  St.  George's  new  organ,  an  amount  of  3047  th.  was  obtained,  which 
by  far  exceeded  the  actual  costs.  Thus  the  organist's  plans  could  be 
executed  in  full.  No  one  was  happier  about  that  than  their  instigator;  but 
he  was  not  spared  to  witness  the  completion  of  the  large  project.  On 
February  23,  1703,  he  was  still  writing  to  the  Council  regarding  some 
details  of  the  construction;  on  March  3 1  he  breathed  his  last,  four  years 
before  the  work  on  his  organ  was  finished. 

Johann  Christoph  was  in  many  respects  a  forerunner  of  his  second 
cousin,  Sebastian,  with  whom  he  has  more  traits  in  common  than 
Sebastian's  own  father.  In  profundity  and  creative  originality  he  among 
all  the  older  members  of  the  clan  came  nearest  to  the  culminating  genius 
of  the  family;  even  their  handwriting  reveals  a  certain  similarity. 
Moreover  Johann  Christoph's  fighting  spirit,  stubbornness,  and  lack  of 
diplomacy  in  his  dealings  with  his  superiors,  clearly  recur  in  Sebastian. 
But  there  was  one  tragic  difference.  Sebastian  had  the  driving  power  to 
start  a  new  life  when  he  felt  this  to  be  beneficial  to  his  development  and 
career.  Fighting  against  heavy  odds,  including  imprisonment,  he  wrenched 
himself  free  and  changed  his  appointments.  Johann  Christoph,  tied  by  the 
conceptions  of  his  family  and  his  generation,  gave  in  when  a  supreme 
effort  was  imperative.  Thus  he  stayed  for  38  years  in  Eisenach,  where  his 
art  found  little  recognition  and  even  his  performances  suffered  from  an 
inadequate  instrument;  and  these  uncongenial  surroundings  made  him 
dissatisfied  and  unsuccessful  in  his  dealings  with  the  outside  world. 

About  Johann  Christoph's  sons  little  is  known,  but  the  little  seems 
significant.  All  four  were  musicians.  Two  appear  to  have  inherited  the 
father's  restlessness  and  desire  for  change,  while  each  of  the  other  two 
held  one  and  the  same  position  throughout  his  life.  Johann  Christoph  the 
younger  (28)  was  in  Northern  Germany  when  his  father  died.  He  applied 
for  the  position  in  Eisenach,  but  the  Council  decided  on  another  Bach, 
Johann  Bernhard  (18),  who  had  made  a  name  for  himself  in  the  city  of 

38  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

Magdeburg.  It  may  be  doubted  whether  young  Johann  Christoph  was 
really  unhappy  about  this  slight,  for  according  to  the  Genealogy  he 
'found  his  greatest  pleasure  in  travelling.'  He  did  not  even  stay  in 
Germany,  but  went  to  Holland  and  eventually  settled  down  as  a  clavier 
teacher  in  England.  His  youngest  brother,  Johann  Michael  (30),  a  trained 
organ  builder,  was  also  not  content  to  live  in  Thuringia.  He  went  to 
Northern  Europe  and  was  not  heard  of  again.  About  the  careers  of  the 
two  steady  sons  of  the  great  organist,  more  will  be  said  in  Part  II. 

The  great  Johann  Christoph's  brother,  Johann  Michael  (14),  born 
1648,  seems  to  have  been  of  a  less  problematical  nature,  and  to  have  fitted 
well  into  the  established  Bach  pattern.  He  also  received  his  training  from 
his  father,  Heinrich,  and  was  employed  in  Arnstadt  as  court  organist  until 
1673.  In  that  year  his  uncle,  Johann  Bach,  the  head  of  the  Erfurt  branch, 
died  and  the  organist's  position  at  the  Predigerkirche  became  vacant.  The 
Erfurt  town  fathers  chose  Johann  Effler,  who  had  so  far  held  the  position 
of  organist  to  the  parish  of  Gehren  near  Arnstadt.  This  created  an  opening 
in  Gehren,  and  Michael  Bach,  then  25  years  old,  was  invited  for  a  trial 
performance  in  this  city.  Afterwards  a  city  Councillor  wrote1  to 
Michael's  patron,  the  Count  of  Arnstadt,  who  seems  to  have  recom- 
mended the  young  man  for  the  post:  'The  minister  as  well  as  the  Council 
declared  that  Johann  Michael's  person  and  art  left  nothing  to  be  desired, 
and  that  they  owe  humble  thanks  to  your  gracious  Lordship  for  having 
presented  to  the  community  and  church  a  discreet  and  well-behaved 
applicant  who  was  experienced  in  his  art.  Therefore  the  Council  under- 
took to  grant  the  new  organist,  in  addition  to  the  regular  salary  provided 
for  this  position,  the  additional  10  fl.  allowed  to  the  former  organist  for 
his  industry  and  merits,  which  payment  the  new  organist  will  receive  not 
only  for  service  in  church  but  for  work  as  town  clerk  as  well.' 

Michael  must  have  made  a  good  impression  to  be  granted  the  privi- 
leges acquired  by  his  older  and  more  renowned  predecessor.  His  salary 
was  a  comparatively  good  one — certainly  higher  than  his  father's — for  in 
addition  to  a  yearly  amount  of  73  fl.  he  got  firewood,  the  use  of  half  an 
acre  of  land,  and  various  contributions  of  food  as  well  as  free  lodging. 
Moreover  he  must  have  received  payment  from  his  former  ducal  patron 
as  well,  since  he  was  frequently  commanded  to  play  at  the  Arnstadt  court. 
Another  source  of  income  was  opened  for  this  versatile  artist  through  the 
construction  of  instruments  for  the  music  lovers  of  Arnstadt  and  its 
vicinity.  While  many  Bach  musicians  had  a  most  thorough  knowledge  of 
organ  building  (which  enabled  them  to  make  precise  suggestions  for  the 

1  Letter  dated  October  13,  1673.  Cf.  Bitter,  'J-  S.  Bach,'  2nd  ed.,  Berlin,  1881. 


repair  of  their  instruments),  Michael  was  an  expert  in  clavichords  and 
violins;  a  seal  of  his  preserved  in  the  Manfred  Gorke  collection  proudly 
displays  two  bows  and  two  violin  scrolls.  This  craft  was  mastered  also  by 
his  younger  brother,  Johann  Giinther,  whom  the  Genealogy  praises  as 
'a  skilful  builder  of  various  newly  invented  instruments,5  and  by  his 
nephews,  Johann  Nicolaus  (27)  and  Johann  Michael  (30),  who  were 
probably  trained  by  him.  In  his  private  life,  Michael  was  following  closely 
the  model  of  his  older  brother,  Johann  Christoph.  He  married  Catharina 
Wedemann,  a  sister  of  his  brother's  wife,  and  the  wedding  took  place  in 
1675,  two  years  after  Michael's  appointment  to  the  Gehren  position,  just 
as  the  elder  son  of  Heinrich  had  set  up  his  own  household  two  years  after 
getting  the  post  in  Eisenach.  Here,  however,  the  similarity  between  the 
lives  of  the  two  brothers  ends.  No  son  of  Michael  survived  to  carry  on 
the  father's  work  and  Michael  himself  passed  away  at  the  age  of  46, 
leaving  five  unmarried  daughters1  behind,  the  youngest  of  whom,  Maria 
Barbara,  was  only  10  years  old.  Michael's  wife  survived  him  by  ten  years, 
dying  on  October  19,  1704.  Some  of  the  orphaned  girls  moved  to  Arn- 
stadt,  and  Maria  Barbara  stayed  with  her  uncle  and  godfather,  Martin 
Feldhaus,  the  mayor  of  Arnstadt,  in  his  house  inscribed  'The  Golden 
Crown.'  Here  it  was  that  she  met  her  cousin  and  future  husband,  Johann 
Sebastian  Bach. 


The  compositions  of  Johann  Michael  and  Johann  Christoph  are  to 
each  other  as  promise  and  fulfilment.  The  two  brothers  worked  along 
similar  lines,  but  in  every  field  of  composition — with  possibly  the  single 
exception  of  the  organ  prelude — Christoph  was  the  more  successful. 
Where  the  short-lived  younger  brother  tried  and  experimented,  the  elder 
achieved  success.  Therefore,  in  the  discussion  of  their  works,  the  logical 
rather  than  the  historical  order  will  be  used,  so  that  the  analysis  of 
Michael's  compositions  will  precede  that  of  his  brother's  works. 

There  are  eleven  motets  and  five  cantatas  by  Michael  at  present  known, 
and  they  give  a  good  idea  of  this  interesting  composer's  versatility. 
Although  most  motets  are  based  in  the  traditional  manner  on  Biblical 
texts  and  chorales,  they  display  in  their  treatment  a  surprising  variety. 

Only  a  single  work,  the  New  Year's  motet  Set  lieber  Tag  willkommen 
(Welcome,  beloved  day;  Schn.  27)  makes  no  use  of  any  church  hymn. 

1  Their  names  are  given  by  Wiegand,  I.e. 



The  composition  is  written  for  two  sopranos,  one  alto,  two  tenors  and 
one  bass,  a  combination  not  to  be  found  in  any  other  of  the  composer's 
motets.  Similarly  the  light  and  transparent  polyphonic  setting  of  the  piece 
with  its  interplay  of  higher  and  lower  voices  compares  favourably  with 
the  homophonic  style  prevailing  in  Michael's  motets.  Near  the  end,  at  the 
word  'death,'  Michael  as  a  true  composer  of  the  Baroque  period,  indicates 
an  impressive  sudden  piano. 

Completely  different  is  the  motet  Nun  haV  ich  ilberwunden  (Now  I 
have  overcome;  Schn.  32)  which  dispenses  with  any  Biblical  text.  The 
third  stanza  of  Melchior  Vulpius'  familiar  hymn,  Christus)  der  ist  mein 
Leben  (For  Christ  my  Saviour  live  I),  is  used  as  a  text  for  this  composition, 
written  for  two  mixed  choruses  in  four  parts  each.  The  beginning,  with 
its  eleven  repetitions  of  the  word  nun  (now)  alternately  uttered  by  the 
two  choruses,  did  not  present  to  a  17th-century  audience  the  slightly 
humorous  touch  which  it  has  for  the  modern  listener.  Such  restatements 
of  brief  words  by  way  of  an  introduction  to  a  vocal  composition  were 
intended  to  heighten  the  suspense  of  the  audience  and  were  still  used  by 
Sebastian  Bach  (cf.  p.  212).  Michael's  motet  consists  of  two  main  sections. 
In  the  first  the  text  of  the  chorale  is  divided  into  brief  phrases,  which  are 
presented  in  the  form  of  a  dialogue  with  concertizing  elements.  The  ardent 
fervour  and  devout  strength  of  Michael's  style  is  here  displayed  to  the 
very  best  advantage.  The  second  half  of  the  motet,  in  which  the  two 
choruses  join  forces,  employs  the  more  familiar  cantus  firmus  technique; 
the  chorale  melody  is  presented  in  long  notes  in  the  soprano  part,  while 
the  other  voices  introduce  counter-melodies  partly  derived  from  the 
hymn  tune  itself  (Ex.  5).  This  technique  is  used  in  like  manner  in 
contemporary  chorale  preludes  for  the  organ. 


Vim      hab'ich  n     be, 

In  each  of  the  remaining  nine  motets  Biblical  text  and  church  hymn 
are  combined.  Particularly  impressive  are  the  shorter  and  more  condensed 
compositions  such  as  Unser  Leben  wdhret  sieben^ig  Jahr  (Our  life  lasts 
seventy  years;  Schn.  23)  with  the  chorale  Ach  Herr,  lass  deine  liebe  Engelein 
(Lord  Jesus,  Thy  dear  angels  send)  as  a  cantus  firmus  in  the  soprano.  The 


contrast  between  the  two  text  elements,  which  is  at  first  hardly  notice- 
able, increases  all  through  the  motet  until  the  last  twelve  measures 
represent  two  strictly  separated  worlds  of  heaven  and  earth.  Weird 
scurrying  and  rushing  takes  place  in  the  lower  sphere,  inspired  by  the 
words  'for  life  quickly  passes,  as  though  we  were  flying  away.'  In  the 
upper  realm  a  serene  calm  reigns,  the  soprano,  in  high,  long  extended 
notes,  praising  the  Lord  Jesus  Christ.  This  contrast  between  the  subjec- 
tive suffering  of  mankind  and  the  objective  bliss  of  divinity  is  emphasized 
by  the  bold  use  of  a  striking  dissonance  between  soprano  and  alto 
{Ex.  6). 




de-nn    es       fkh  .  ret,    denn    cs     fah.ret,         denn    «      f&h  .  ret  schntU  cU  .  hm 

Somewhat  similar  in  character,  although  not  of  equal  dramatic  power, 
is  the  five-part  motet  Das  Blut  Jesu  Christi  (The  blood  of  Jesus  Christ; 
Schn.  20)  introducing  one  stanza  from  Johann  Heermann's  song  Wo  soil 
ichfliehen  kin  (Whither  shall  I  flee).  Here  for  once  the  composer  prescribes 
the  use  of  wind  instruments  as  a  reinforcement  to  the  chorus.  He  calls  for 
a  Zink  (a  descant  horn  with  finger  holes)  to  play  in  unison  with  the  top 
voice,  and  for  four  trombones  of  different  sizes  to  support  the  lower 
parts.  The  first  seventeen  measures  are  restricted  to  the  Biblical  text. 
Here  the  soprano  is  treated  like  any  of  the  other  parts,  and  participates 
vigorously  in  the  interpretation  of  the  Gospel.  After  a  short  rest  its 
function  changes,  however,  and  henceforth  it  utters  the  hymn  tune.  At 
the  end  of  the  composition  fourteen  measures  are  literally  repeated, 
causing  an  anticlimax,  of  which  Michael's  elder  brother  would  hardly  have 
been  guilty. 

Michael's  familiarity  with  the  emotional  subjectivity  of  17th-century 
Italian  music  is  apparent  in  the  five-part  motet  Ich  weiss,  class  mein  Erloser 
lebt  (I  know  that  my  Redeemer  liveth;  Schn.  22),  based  on  the  passage 
from  the  book  of  Job  that  Handel  uses  in  his  'Messiah.'  The  chorale 
Christus,  der  ist  mein  Leben  (For  Christ  my  Saviour  live  I)  is  added  to  the 
Scriptural  text.  Like  the  great  Heinrich  Schiitz,  Michael  allows  himself  to 
be  inspired  by  the  rhythm  of  the  text  and,  as  a  result,  achieves  an  emphatic 
and  agitated  style  of  strong  expressive  power.  The  irregular  three-measure 
phrases  often  repeated  lend  an  urgency  and  emotional  appeal  to  the  work 
found  only  in  the  best  German  choral  compositions  of  the  period. 

42  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

More  conventional  is  the  Christmas  motet  Fiirchtet  euch  nicht  (Be  not 
afraid;  Schn.  34),  a  work  of  solid  craftsmanship,  scored  for  double  chorus. 
At  first  the  two  groups  develop  the  words  of  the  angel  in  a  simple 
homophonic  dialogue  of  the  kind  to  be  found  in  the  works  of  Hans 
Leo  Hassler  and  Michael  Praetorius.  Then  they  join  forces,  and  while 
the  soprano  introduces  the  chorale  Gelobet  seist  du,  Jesu  Christ  (Praise 
be  to  Thee,  Jesus  Christ),  the  lower  parts  present  contrapuntal  counter- 

The  five-part  chorale  motet  Herr,  wenn  ich  nur  dich  habe  (Lord,  if  I 
have  but  Thee;  Schn.  21)  follows  a  course  which  is  the  exact  opposite. 
From  an  initial  contrast  between  Biblical  text  and  chorale  it  gradually 
works  up  towards  a  complete  unification.  Michael  uses  five  stanzas  of  the 
hymn  Ach  Gott,  wie  manches  Her^eleid  (Ah  God,  how  sad  and  sick  at 
heart),  which  is  introduced  in  the  traditional  way  by  the  soprano,  while 
the  lower  parts  present  the  Biblical  text.  Particularly  impressive  is  the 
section  preceding  the  third  verse  of  the  chorale,  when  the  four  deeper 
voices  anticipate  the  melody  of  the  hymn  in  the  manner  of  a  chorale 
prelude  and  develop  it  in  polyphonic  style.  In  the  last  stanza  words  from 
the  Scripture  are  eliminated  and  all  five  voices  join  in  a  powerful  harmon- 
ization of  the  chorale.  Of  peculiar  charm  is  the  quickening  of  the  tempo, 
which  the  composer  prescribes  with  the  unexpected  indication  Presto.  In 
spite  of  the  exultant  jubilation  of  this  ending,  the  composer  has  the  very 
last  four  measures  of  the  motet  sung  piano.  One  cannot  help  being  re- 
minded of  another  Protestant  master  who,  some  two  hundred  years 
later,  used  the  same  effect  to  end  the  second  movement  of  his  'German 

A  striking  similarity  in  form  may  be  noticed  between  the  three  motets 
for  eight-part  double  chorus  Herr,  du  lassest  mich  erfahren  (Lord,  Thou 
lettest  me  know;  Schn.  35),  Dem  Menschen  ist  gesetit  einmal  %u  sterben  (It 
is  the  law  that  man  must  die;  Schn.  36),  and  Halt,  was  du  hast  (Hold  what 
thou  hast;  Schn.  33),  all  of  which  are  also  in  the  same  key  of  e.  After  a 
short  introduction  by  the  second  chorus,  which  is  entrusted  with  the 
Biblical  text,  the  first  chorus  enters  with  the  chorale.  Alternately  the  two 
groups  present  lines  from  their  respective  texts,  as  if  vying  with  each 
other,  until  the  church  hymn  triumphs.  Near  the  end  of  each  motet,  the 
two  choruses  join  forces  in  singing  the  last  sentences  of  the  hymn.  The 
continual  shifting  of  interest  from  one  chorus  to  the  other,  the  alternation 
of  very  short  sections,  and  the  countless  echo  effects,  particularly  in  the 
last  chorale  verses,  give  these  motets  a  quality  of  restlessness. 

In  Herr,  ich  wane  aufdein  Heil  (Lord,  I  wait  for  Thy  salvation;  Schn. 



37)  Michael  was  led  by  a  longing  for  death  to  write  one  of  his  most  stirring 
compositions,  solving  the  problem  of  the  chorale  motet  in  yet  another 
manner.  It  is  written  for  eight-part  double  chorus;  and  the  text  of  the 
Scripture  is  at  first,  in  the  traditional  way,  entrusted  to  the  second  chorus, 
while  the  first  chorus  presents  the  church  hymn,  Ach  wie  sehnlich  wart  ich 
(Oh,  how  anxiously  do  I  await).  After  a  mere  four  lines  of  the  chorale, 
the  pent-up  emotions  become  so  strong  that  the  hymn  tune  is  altogether 
swept  away.  Instead  of  the  usual  ending  with  the  glorified  chorale,  the 
second  half  of  the  composition  calls  on  all  the  voices  to  join  in  the  fervent 
supplication  'Lord,  I  wait  for  Thy  salvation;  oh  come  and  take  me.'  The 
motet  reveals  Michael's  gift  of  harmonizing  melodies  in  a  straightforward 
and  convincing  way,  and  at  the  same  time  his  naive  pleasure  in  pictorial 
characterizations  such  as  the  long  melisma  on  'I  wait'  (Ex.  7).  It 
displays  a  simplicity  and  directness  which  cannot  fail  to  move  the  listener. 



J  J  J   j   1 

J      J        J        J        1 

. .      u 



r — *— H 


r  r  r  r 


r       u 

Jr  r  r  r~ 


._    ..U 

■*   J    4    J 

Jf       p       -        & 

*  j  j  j 

&r £3- 


£     1 

If ^L 

1  r  c  r  r 


Five  vocal  compositions,  which  have  been  discovered  in  the  past  few 
decades,  contribute  towards  completing  the  picture  of  Michael  Bach's 
artistic  personality.  In  each  of  these  a  five-part  string  group  is  employed, 
besides  the  organ,  to  accompany  the  singers  and  to  supply  brilliant  instru- 
mental preludes  and  interludes.  In  this  respect  the  five  strongly  differen- 
tiated works  foreshadow  18th-century  cantatas. 

The  simplest  form  is  displayed  in  the  two  arias,  for  soprano  and  alto 
respectively,  based  on  Michael's  favourite  Ach  wie  sehnlich  wart  ich  (Oh, 
how  anxiously  do  I  await;  Schn.  18)  and  on  the  hymn  Auf!  lasst  wis  den 
Herrn  loben  (Let  us  praise  the  Lord;  Schn.  17).  The  accompanying  string 
body  consists  of  a  violin  exhibiting  a  certain  amount  of  virtuosity  and 
four  unnamed  instruments,  probably  three  viole  da  gamba  and  a  double 
bass.  Each  aria  starts  with  a  'Sinfonia,'  which,  after  a  few  calm  measures 
of  introduction,  assumes  a  freely  flowing  toccata-like  character.  The 
hymns  themselves  are  treated  as  strophic  songs,  and  the  composer  avoids 
monotony  by  prescribing  changes  for  the  last  line  of  each  verse.  In  Ach 
wie  sehnlich  he  indicates  lente,  while  in  Auf  I  lasst  uns  the  triple  time  of  the 
beginning  is  transformed  into  common  time.  These  are  pieces  of  simple 

44  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

and  noble  beauty  meant  for  singers  of  modest  technical  skill  such  as  the 
little  parish  of  Gehren  could  muster. 

More  intricate  is  the  solo  cantata  Es  ist  ein  grosser  Gewinn  (It  is  of 
great  advantage;  Schn.  16).  Each  of  its  three  sections  starts  with  a  vocal 
solo,  accompanied  by  the  continuo  instrument  only,  in  which  the  soprano 
exhibits  a  certain  amount  of  gorgia  (the  Italian  coloratura  singing  of  the 
period).  Then  the  strings  and  voice  take  up  this  melody  in  a  gay  concerted 
dialogue.  The  instruments  used  in  this  composition  are,  besides  organ, 
two  violins,  a  violino  piccolo  and  a  quart  violino  non  di  grosso  grande.  It  is 
not  quite  clear  what  Michael  had  in  mind  when  he  referred  to  the  quart 
violino  'not  of  the  large  size/  but  probably  it  was,  like  the  violino  piccolo^ 
a  small  violin  tuned  a  fourth  higher  than  the  standard  type.  We  may 
assume  that  the  unusual  way  of  describing  the  instrument  is  due  to  the 
fact  that  Michael  built  it  himself  in  an  unorthodox  manner. 

Liebster  Jesu,  hor  mein  Flehen  (Dearest  Jesus,  hear  my  prayer;  not  in 
Schneider's  catalogue),  written  for  the  second  Sunday  in  Lent,  has  the 
character  of  a  dramatic  dialogue  between  Christ  (bass),  the  Canaanitish 
woman  (soprano),  and  three  disciples  (alto  and  two  tenors).  The  accom- 
panying string  instruments  are  specifically  allotted  to  the  different 
characters:  the  two  violins  to  Christ,  the  two  violas  to  the  Canaanitish 
woman,  and  the  double  bass  to  the  disciples.  Only  in  the  chorale  which 
concludes  the  dialogue  are  all  the  voices  and  instruments  united.  Latin 
headings  in  the  score  help  to  clarify  the  content  of  the  work.  After  a  very 
short  Symphonia,  the  Canaanitish  woman  implores  the  Lord  to  save  her 
daughter,  who  is  possessed  of  the  Devil.  The  three  disciples  intercede  for 
her,  and  after  some  hesitation  the  Master  orders  Satan  to  relinquish  his 
prey.  We  might  well  expect  the  stricken  child's  recovery  of  health  to  be 
represented  in  the  ensuing  instrumental  interlude,  but  the  alternation  of 
plain  chords  and  rests  that  we  find  there  does  not  do  justice  to  the  situa- 
tion. The  form  of  the  epic  dialogue  in  which  Hammerschmidt,  Ahle,  and 
other  17th-century  composers  excelled,  apparently  did  not  appeal  to 
Michael.  The  only  composition  of  this  type  which  has  been  preserved 
shows  a  stiff  formalism  not  to  be  found  in  his  other  works. 

The  most  ambitious  of  Michael's  cantatas  is  Ach  bleib  bei  uns,  Herr 
Jesu  Christ  (Abide  with  us,  Lord  Jesus  Christ;  Schn.  42)  for  two  violins, 
three  violas,  bassoon,  organ,  and  four-part  mixed  chorus,  employing  the 
familiar  chorale  text  without  its  original  tune.  Bach  sets  each  line  of  the 
hymn  separately,  as  in  a  16th-century  motet,  exploring  the  pictorial 
possibilities  of  every  phrase,  and  paying  special  attention  to  dynamic 
shading.  While  such  a  technique  is  not  conducive  to  structural  unity 


within  the  whole  cantata,  it  is  productive  of  many  attractive  details.  In 
the  introductory  Sonata?-  the  two  violins  and  first  viola  develop  spirited 
competition  in  which  the  vocal  ensemble  joins  with  vigour  and  gusto 
during  the  main  part  of  the  cantata.  When  the  text  refers  to  the  'heavenly 
word,  the  bright  light,'  Michael  boldly  leads  the  first  violin  up  to  giddy 
heights  (Ex.  8).  In  spite  of  occasional  awkward  progressions  in  the 


Lieht,  dem    qott  .   Itch    Worl    dis 

voice  and  string  parts,  this  cantata  gives  us  a  good  example  of  the  high 
standard  of  his  technical  skill,  proving  that  he  was  fully  conversant  with 
both  German  polyphony  and  the  Italian  stile  concertato. 

Ernst  Ludwig  Gerber  states  in  his  Neues  Lexikon  der  Tonkunstler  of 
1812-14  that  he  owned  a  manuscript  with  72  chorale  preludes  by 
Johann  Michael,  some  of  them  followed  by  as  many  as  eight  or  ten 
variations.  He  claims  further  that  'there  is  great .  .  .  variety  among  these 
preludes,  and  none  of  them  is  quite  unworthy  of  the  name  of  Bach.'  This 
manuscript  has  unfortunately  disappeared;  and  all  we  know  to-day  are 
eight  preludes,  which  give  only  a  narrowly  restricted  insight  into  this 
part  of  Michael's  activity.2  They  show  him  as  an  organist  of  sound  judg- 
ment and  technical  skill,  but  of  limited  imagination  and  originality.  The 

1  The  terms  Sonata,  Sinfonia,  and  Symphonia  were  used  at  that  time  indis- 
criminately for  instrumental  preludes.  In  Liebster  Jesu  Michael  calls  the  introduction 
Symphonia,  but  writes  after  the  first  entreaty  of  the  Canaanitish  woman:  Sonata 

2  An  'Aria  with  15  Variations'  is  known  only  in  a  corrupted  arrangement  for 
Harmonium  by  L.  A.  Zellner  from  the  second  half  of  the  19th  century.  Since  we  are 
ignorant  of  the  source  of  this  arrangement,  we  cannot  be  sure  what  its  original  was  like 
and  even  whether  it  was  actually  by  Michael.  Wilhelm  Martini  claims  in  'Johann  Sebastian 
Bach  in  Thiiringen'  that  a  composition  by  Michael  is  to  be  found  in  tablature  in  the 
archives  of  the  parish  of  Elleben  at  Osthausen,  but  I  have  been  unable  to  get  further 
information  about  it. 



simplest  form  of  Michael's  chorale  prelude  is  exemplified  by  his  arrange- 
ment of  Von  Gott  will  ich  nicht  lassen  (From  God  I'll  not  be  parted;  Schn. 
47).  It  is  a  three-part  composition  in  which  the  soprano  has  the  hymn 
tune,  accompanied  by  rapidly  moving  counter-melodies  in  the  two  lower 
voices.  An  introduction  of  one  and  a  half  measures  and  a  brief  interlude 
are  the  only  deviations  from  a  plain  and  unassuming  presentation  of  the 
chorale.  A  more  personal  note  can  be  found  in  such  arrangements  as  In 
dich  hab'  ichgehoffet,  Herr  (Oh  Lord,  as  I  have  trusted  Thee;  Schn.  50)  and 
Nun  f rem  euch,  lieben  Christen  G'mein  (Now  dance  and  sing,  ye  Christian 
throng;  Schn.  52),  in  which  the  entrance  of  the  cantus  firmus  in  the 
soprano  is  preceded  by  a  fugato  of  the  two  lower  parts,  using  as  a  subject 
the  first  line  of  the  chorale  melody.  The  technique  of  Pachelbel,  with 
whom  the  Bach  family  was  on  terms  of  personal  friendship,  is  unmistak- 
able in  this  arrangement.  Particularly  impressive,  in  In  dich  hab'  ich 
gehoffet,  Herr,  is  the  gradual  increase  from  three  parts  in  the  first  half  of 
the  composition  to  four  and  ultimately  five  voices,  corresponding  to  the 
emotional  content  of  the  hymn  text.  In  Dies  sind  die  heiVgen  ^ehn  Gebot 
(These  are  the  holy  ten  commandments;  Schn.  49)  and  Allein  Gott  in  der 
Hoh '  (To  God  on  high  alone  be  praise;  Schn.  5 1)  an  attempt  is  made  to 
use  a  more  polyphonic  style  for  the  preludes  and  interludes,  contrasting 
with  a  predominantly  harmonic  setting  in  the  cantus  firmus  sections. 
Possibly  the  finest  work  in  this  group  is  Wenn  mein  Stiindlein  vorhanden 
ist  (When  finally  my  hour  comes;  Schn.  46),  in  which  Michael  allots  the 
cantus  firmus  alternately  to  soprano  and  bass,  thus  creating  a  lively 
dialogue  between  highest  and  lowest  parts.  The  composer's  contrapuntal 
skill  reveals  itself  in  a  stretto  with  partial  diminution  of  the  first  chorale 
line  inserted  in  the  middle  of  the  composition  {Ex.  9). 


Different  from  the  rest  is  Wenn  wir  in  hochsten  Noten  sein  (When  we 
are  troubled  through  and  through;  Schn.  48),  a  set  of  chorale  variations  in 
the  style  of  Samuel  Scheidt.  In  the  first  verse  the  melody  is  partly  broken 
up  into  coloraturas  and  given  to  the  soprano.  The  second  verse  restores 
the  simple  metrical  construction  of  the  tune  and  entrusts  it  to  the  middle 
voice,  above  a  harmonic  bass  and  beneath  a  cantabile  soprano  part.  The 

MUSIC    OF    JOHANN    CHRISTOPH    (  I  3)  47 

third  verse  brings  the  composition  to  its  climax.  Running  sixteenth  notes 
dominate  its  two  voices,  almost  completely  obscuring  the  chorale  melody. 
This  last  verse  displays  a  light  and  emotional  quality,  suggesting  that  at 
times  Michael  Bach  aimed  at  a  subjectivity  of  expression  that  is  almost 

In  conclusion  it  may  be  stated  that  Michael  was  a  composer  of  great, 
but  uneven  talent.  He  was  fully  conversant  with  the  art  of  his  time  and 
used  both  German  and  Italian  models  with  considerable  success.  The 
composer  was  technically  well  trained,  his  music  abounding  in  interesting 
details  and  expressive  power.  Nevertheless,  his  compositions  were  too 
often  lacking  in  the  compelling  qualities  of  a  real  work  of  genius.  While 
some  of  them  are  stirring  and  exhilarating,  others  hardly  rise  above  the 
level  of  respectable  mediocrity.  As  a  rule  his  harmonic  language  is 
impressive;  but  there  are  few  attempts  at  introducing  a  more  polyphonic 
texture,  and  perfect  construction  is  only  rarely  achieved.  Michael  may  have 
been  better  as  an  instrumental  than  as  a  vocal  composer;  but  since  so  little 
of  his  instrumental  work  survives,  we  are  not  able  fully  to  judge  its  merits. 
It  is  possible  that  some  of  his  finest  compositions  are  lost;  but  it  is  just  as 
probable  that  his  untimely  death  prevented  him  from  reaching  the  zenith 
of  his  artistic  development. 


Among  the  older  members  of  the  Bach  family  Johann  Christoph  (13) 
is  undoubtedly  the  leader.  Even  the  few  works  preserved  show  the  wide 
range  of  his  creative  output.  He  wrote  clavier  and  organ  compositions, 
cantatas  and  motets,  works  for  a  single  voice  and  for  a  ten-part  double 
chorus.  Serene  confidence  and  trust,  sadness  rising  to  agonized  despair, 
and  on  occasion  a  fine  sense  of  humour,  can  be  detected  in  his  com- 
positions. Johann  Christoph  creates  beautiful  and  poignant  melodies;  he 
cleverly  mingles  the  old  church  modes  with  the  modern  major  and  minor, 
thus  achieving  a  striking  harmonic  variety;  he  indulges  in  bold  successions 
of  chords  and  sudden  modulations  of  great  intensity.  Above  all,  his  works 
display  a  clear  and  logical  construction,  the  outcome  of  his  strong  sense 
of  form.  Sebastian  praised  Johann  Christoph's  work  as  'profound,'  while 
Philipp  Emanuel  characterized  its  curiously  romantic  character  by 
describing  Johann  Christoph  in  the  Genealogy  as  'the  great  and  expressive 
composer.5  Forkel  in  his  book  on  J.  S.  Bach  refers  to  the  admiration 

48  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

which  Emanuel  had  for  his  ancestor.  'It  is  still  quite  fresh  in  my  memory/ 
the  historian  writes,  'how  good-naturedly  the  old  man  smiled  at  me  at  the 
most  remarkable  and  hazardous  passages  when  once  in  Hamburg  he  gave 
me  the  pleasure  of  hearing  some  of  these  old  pieces.' 

Among  Johann  Christoph's  simplest  vocal  compositions  are  his  arias 
Es  ist  nun  aus  (It  is  now  past;  Schn.  59)  and  Mit  Weinen  hebt  sich's  an 
(With  weeping  there  begins;  Schn.  66).  These  are  plain  four-part  songs  in 
which  a  purely  harmonic  support  is  given  to  an  unadorned  melody.  As  in 
similar  arias  of  a  hymnlike  character,  a  solo  soprano  accompanied  by  the 
organ  may  take  the  place  of  the  full  chorus.  In  spite  of  their  unpretentious 
character,  these  two  pieces  are  deeply  stirring.  The  former  is  a  funeral 
song,  or  Sterb-Aria,  with  the  refrain  'Farewell,  O  World'  on  a  bold  down- 
ward leap  of  a  ninth  in  the  soprano  {Ex.  10).  The  little  piece  gives 

Ve7t    gu  .'  .  ■'.  te  N&cht . 

moving  expression  to  the  general  longing  of  the  time  for  repose,  and  it  is 
not  surprising  that  Sebastian  took  a  special  interest  in  it.  Apparently  he 
had  it  performed,  since  he  supplemented  the  text  in  the  old  parts  and 
made  several  corrections  in  the  music.  According  to  a  note  in  the  manu- 
script, the  aria  Mit  Weinen  hebt  sich's  an  was  written  in  1691.  The  free 
rhythms  of  this  composition  are  remarkable,  and  they  arise  from  Johann 
Christoph's  practice  of  lengthening  the  notes  at  the  beginning  and  end  of 
each  line  of  text,  thus  constantly  interrupting  the  basic  trochaic  metre 
and  producing  a  feeling  of  restlessness,  which  realistically  depicts  the 
sorrows  and  pain  man  suffers  on  earth. 

More  elaborate  are  the  two  five-part  motets  Sei  getreu  bis  an  den  Tod 
(Be  thou  faithful  unto  death;  Schn.  63)  and  Der  Mensch  vom  Weibe 
geboren  (Man  born  of  woman;  Schn.  62).  These  brief  compositions  display 
a  combination  of  the  motet  and  aria  form.  The  first  half  of  each  work  is 
based  on  the  Bible  (Revelation  ii,  10,  and  Job  xiv,  1,  respectively)  and 
exhibits  a  loosely  knitted,  somewhat  polyphonic  texture;  the  second  half 
is  an  aria,  using  a  hymn  text  and  the  traditional  homophonic  style.  Neither 
the  quietly  confident  Sei  getreu  nor  the  dark  and  restless  Der  Mensch 
(which  is  influenced  b;y  Johann  Bach's  Unser  Leben  ist  ein  Schatten)  is  a 
particularly  impressive  composition.  Their  settings  are  somewhat  conven- 
tional and  hardly  reflect  the  wilful  subjectivity  so  often  noticeable  in 


k/V  ...... 






}>aA  i  «J*»fc<i 

VI.  Autograph  of  the  first  page  of  the  Cantata  for  the  i6th  or  24th  Sunday 

after  Trinity  by  C.  Philipp   Emanuel  Bach.    It  uses  as  a  first  chorus  Johann 

Christoph  Bach's  Motet  '  Der  Gerechte  ' 

ifz&iuwi  ^ri*uutitii 


ii evens 

3   V  u*idu«4mi); 



'tint  i^uk  *nApnu)  c 

V  liU  lj)  jo  Mt  +?ti  cxa 


VII.  Title-page  of  the  Birthday  Cantata  by  Georg  Christoph  Bach 

MOTETS    OF    JOHANN    CHRISTOPH   ( I  3)  49 

Johann  Christoph's  compositions.  It  is  noteworthy  that  these  two  works 
were  not  considered  sufficiently  valuable  to  be  included  in  the  Alt- 
Bachisches  Archiv.  Our  only  sources  for  their  musical  text  are  reliable, 
but  very  late  copies  made  in  the  second  half  of  the  19th  century. 

On  quite  a  different  level  are  two  other  five-part  motets  Fiirchte  dich 
nicht  (Be  not  afraid;  Schn.  61)  and  Der  Gerechte  (The  righteous;  Schn.  64) 
which  belong  to  the  composer's  most  significant  works.  In  Fiirchte  dich 
nicht  the  church  song,  presented  like  a  cantus  firmus  in  long  notes  in  the 
soprano,  alternates  with  the  Bible  text  in  the  four  lower  parts.  For  the 
main  body  of  his  motet  Johann  Christoph  chose  the  words  of  Isaiah 
xliii,  1,  'Fear  not,  for  I  have  redeemed  thee.  I  have  called  thee  by  thy  name, 
thou  art  Mine,'  and  follows  up  with  Luke  xxiii,  43,  'Verily  I  say  unto  thee, 
To-day  shalt  thou  be  with  Me  in  Paradise.'  Old  and  New  Testament  are 
here  associated  to  give  to  mankind  the  Lord's  message  of  salvation.  To 
this  the  tormented  soul  (soprano)  adds  the  last  stanza  of  the  song  'O  woe 
and  grief: 

0  Jesu!  Thou  my  hope  and  rest, 
With  tears  I  kneel  before  Thee, 
Help,  that  in  life  and  death 

1  ever  may  adore  Thee. 

The  motet  begins  quietly  in  the  four  lower  voices;  gradually  the  motion 
increases  and  a  lively  fugato  appears,  leading  to  a  monumental  dialogue 
between  the  voices  of  God  and  man.  The  beseeching  words  'With  tears 
I  kneel  before  Thee'  are  answered  with  the  solace  'Fear  not,  for  I  have 
redeemed  thee';  and  the  repeated  anguished  cry  'Help,  help'  with  the 
prophecy  'To-day  shalt  thou  be  with  Me  in  Paradise.'  The  postlude  of 
alto,  tenor,  and  bass  resumes  the  mood  of  the  beginning.  The  work  is 
beautifully  proportioned,  rising  slowly  to  a  climax  in  its  middle  section 
and  returning  gradually  to  the  initial  atmosphere.  It  is  not  surprising  that 
Sebastian,  who  must  surely  have  known  his  cousin's  composition,  was 
inspired  to  write  a  motet1  based  on  the  same  text  and  using  the  identical 
conception  of  a  dialogue  between  Christ  and  humanity.2 

The  motet  Der  Gerechte  was  a  favourite  composition  of  Philipp 
Emanuel  Bach,  who  added  strings  and  organ  to  the  five  voice  parts  of  the 
original  and  employed  this  arrangement  as  the  first  chorus  in  one  of  his 
own  cantatas  (cf.  p.  373).  Emanuel  informs  us  also  that  this  motet  of  his 
great-uncle's  was  written  in  1676,  when  the  composer  was  34  years  old. 
Its  text  is  taken  from  the  Apocryphal  'Wisdom  of  Solomon,'  ch.  iv, 

1  Motet  No.  IV. 

2  Cf.  also  Sebastian's  early  cantatas,  especially  No.  106  Gottes  Zeit  (see  p.  209). 


50  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

'Though  the  righteous  die  before  his  time,  yet  shall  he  come  to  heaven.' 
The  pictorial  element  is  here  particularly  strongly  developed.  At  the 
beginning,  the  death  of  the  righteous  is  expressed  by  descending  melodic 
lines,  and  the  pleasure  which  God  takes  in  him  by  an  ascending  melody. 
At  the  words  'quickly  he  is  taken,'  a  motive  in  dotted  rhythm  shows 
the  suddenness  of  the  event;  and  the  'evil,  evil,  evil  life'  is  described 
by  significant  chords   {Ex.  n).  Winterfeld  points  out  that  Johann 

Christoph  was  influenced  in  this  composition  by  Giovanni  Gabrieli's 
motet  Sancta  Maria,  succurre  miseris.  The  two  compositions  undoubtedly 
resemble  each  other  in  many  details;  but  more  important  still  is  the  sense 
of  balance  and  form  which  the  Thuringian  composer  acquired  in  his  study 
of  the  Italian  master's  work.  The  first  section  of  Der  Gerechte  is  majestic 
and  slow;  then  follow  two  parts  inscribed  as  'Presto'  and  'Adagio' 
respectively,  and  a  gay  dance  in  triple  time  marks  the  end.  Clearly  there 
are  four  sections  in  this  piece,  the  tempi  of  which  are  slow-fast-slow-fast, 
corresponding  to  the  four  movements  of  the  Sonata  da  chiesa  which  at 
approximately  the  same  time  was  assuming  a  definite  pattern  in  Italy. 

There  survive  four  eight-part  motets  by  Johann  Christoph  Bach,  each 
of  which  uses  two  antiphonal  four-part  groups  of  mixed  voices.  Ich  lasse 
dich  nickt,  du  segnest  mich  denn  (I  will  not  let  Thee  go,  except  Thou 
bless  me;  Schn.  68)  is  based  on  Genesis  xxxii,  26,  to  which  later  is  added 
the  third  stanza  of  the  beautiful  song  'Why  art  thou  troubled'  by  the  16th- 
century  German  poet  and  shoemaker,  Hans  Sachs.  In  the  initial  section 
the  Bible  text  alone  is  employed.  The  two  choruses  alternate  in  a  simple 
and  purely  harmonic  style.  Gradually  the  tension  grows;  instead  of 
following  each  other,  they  overlap  and  finally  they  sing  together.  The 
force  of  this  prayer  is  heightened  by  the  outcry  of  a  single  soprano  voice 
'My  saviour,'  which  is  quickly  lost  in  the  general  excitement.  In  the  second 
section  Bible  text  and  chorale  are  combined.  The  melody  of  the  church 
hymn  is  used  as  a  cantus  firmus  in  the  soprano,  while  the  three  lower 
voices  introduce  rapidly  moving  counter-melodies.  In  spite  of  the  fact 
that  the  initial  eight  parts  are  here  condensed  into  four  parts,  the  motet 
reaches  its  culmination  in  what  is  possibly  the  best  piece  of  polyphonic 
writing  in  any  of  Johann  Christoph's  vocal  compositions.  There  are  two 
main  subjects  among  the  counterpoints  of  this  section:  a  stubborn,  defiant 

MOTETS    OF    JOHANN    CHRISTOPH    ( I  3)  51 

one  to  the  words  I'll  not  let  Thee  go/  and  an  imploring  one  illustrating 
the  ardent  supplication  'I  pray  Thou  bless  me.'  Each  of  these  strongly- 
contrasting  ideas  is  skilfully  developed,  not  only  in  simple  imitation  but 
also  in  stretti  and  inversions.  The  fact  that  this  motet  was  for  some  time 
considered  to  be  a  composition  of  Sebastian's  is  mainly  due  to  this  power- 
ful and  highly  passionate  polyphonic  setting.  The  last  part  of  the  com- 
position again  approaches  the  homophonic  style  of  the  beginning.  It 
introduces  a  simple  harmonization  of  the  chorale  in  plain  four-part  chords. 
The  dramatic  excitement  of  the  middle  section  is  here  replaced  by  a  mood 
of  quiet  happiness  and  confidence.  This  motet,  which  is  also  harmonically 
bold  and  unconventional,  is  one  of  the  finest  works  produced  by  the 
older  Bach  generation. 

The  remaining  three  motets  are  in  eight  parts  throughout.  Herr,  nun 
lassest  du  deinen  Diener  in  Frieden  fahren  (Lord,  now  lettest  Thou  Thy 
servant  depart  in  peace;  Schn.  65)  is  based  on  the  words  of  Luke  ii,  29-32, 
which  Johann  Christoph  employs  without  the  addition  of  a  church  hymn. 
Sudden  changes  between  two  keys,  a  whole  tone  or  a  semitone  apart,  and 
bold  mixtures  of  major  and  minor,  of  medieval  modes  and  modern 
tonality,  give  this  composition  an  iridescent  life  which  makes  up  for  the 
simplicity  of  its  homophonic  structure.  By  repeating  the  first  line  of  the 
text  at  the  end  of  the  composition,  Johann  Christoph  rounds  off  his  motet 
to  a  ternary  form.  The  mighty  invocation  'Lord,  Lord,'  which  begins  the 
work,  also  comes  at  its  close.  Even  the  third  section  taken  by  itself  is  in  a 
kind  of  tripartite  form,  since  the  composer  quotes  in  its  middle  a  phrase 
from  the  second  part,  thus  linking  also  these  two  sections  of  the  motet. 

Lieber  Herr  Gott  (Gracious  Lord;  Schn.  66),  which,  according  to  the 
manuscript,  was  composed  in  December  1672,  uses  as  a  text  a  hymn  or 
prayer  of  the  period.  Bach  may  have  found  the  words  among  the  com- 
positions of  Heinrich  Schiitz,  whose  Geistliche  Chormusik  No.  XIII,  from 
1648,  is  based  on  the  same  poem.  An  additional  similarity  between  the 
two  works  is  to  be  found  in  their  change  from  common  to  triple  time  in 
the  middle  and  their  return  to  common  time  at  the  end.  Johann  Christoph' s 
composition  is  clearly  divided  into  two  sections:  a  more  homophonic  first 
one,  and  a  glorious  fugue  on  the  words  'Through  our  Saviour,  Thy 
beloved  son.'  Here  the  composer  uses  the  trick  of  always  introducing 
subject  and  answer  stretto-like  in  quick  succession,  thus  increasing  the 
intensity  of  the  musical  language.  At  first  four  voices  only  are  employed, 
but  gradually  the  remaining  parts  fill  in  the  polyphonic  texture.  An  even 
balance  is  maintained  between  the  two  choruses,  which  are  linked  by 
skilful  imitations.  Johann  Christoph's  study  of  Italian  models  is  manifest 

52  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

in  the  natural  flow  of  his  parts.  The  mixture  of  tonalities,  in  which  now 
G,  then  e,  and  again  the  Mixolydian  mode,  seems  to  be  prevalent,  contri- 
butes to  the  feeling  of  unrest  and  excitement  pervading  this  dramatic 

Equally  moving  is  the  motet  for  two  choruses  Unseres  Herons  Freude 
(The  joy  of  our  heart;  Schn.  67)  based  on  words  from  the  Lamentations  of 
Jeremiah  v,  15,  16.  Quite  justly,  Spitta  said  about  this  remarkable  com- 
position: 'For  variety,  energy,  and  appealing  fervour  of  expression,  for 
the  development  of  sound  into  bold  and  striking  imagery,  for  the  highest 
perfection  of  form  as  affecting  the  whole  work,  it  can  find  no  equal  except 
among  the  very  best  examples  of  its  kind.'  With  simple  dignity  the  words 
of  the  lamentation  are  set  to  music:  'The  joy  of  our  heart  is  ceased;  our 
dance  is  turned  into  mourning.'  In  a  second  section  the  eight  voices  unite 
to  the  heartrending  outcry:  'Woe  unto  us  that  we  have  sinned!'  Bach's 
only  means  of  expression  here  are  bold  chromatic  progressions,  such  as 
the  juxtaposition  of  the  chords  of  A  flat  and  G.  The  first  section  is  now 
repeated  in  a  most  poetical  combination  with  the  second  one.  Again  and 
again  the  words  of  the  lamentation  are  interrupted  by  the  cry  of  distress, 
until  nothing  remains  but  the  voice  of  despair.  It  is  not  surprising  that 
Sebastian  copied  part  of  this  motet  with  his  own  hand;  its  musical  expres- 
sion and  its  architecture  point  far  into  the  future. 

Different  from  the  motets  are  the  five  compositions  of  Johann 
Christoph  which  employ  not  only  the  organ  but  also  stringed  instruments 
for  the  accompaniment  of  the  voices.  Two  of  these  pieces  are  laments  for 
a  single  voice,  using  the  dramatic  declamation  which  Heinrich  Schiitz  had 
introduced  into  German  Protestant  music.  Ach,  dass  ich  Wassers  gnug 
hdtte  (Oh,  had  I  only  enough  water;  Schn.  5  and  57),  written  for  contralto, 
violin,  three  viole  da  gamba,  and  bass,  was  formerly  considered  a  com- 
position of  Heinrich  Bach.  However,  the  list  of  the  property  left  by 
Philipp  Emanuel  mentions  among  Johann  Christoph's  compositions  a 
work  of  this  name;  moreover  the  emotional  intensity  of  the  lament  and 
its  bold  harmonic  language  indicate  the  authorship  of  Heinrich's  son. 
This  solo  cantata  written  in  da  capo  form  is  unusually  concise.  There  is  a 
brief  instrumental  introduction,  after  which  the  voice  enters,  dominating 
henceforth  the  musical  structure,  which  is  supported  and  enriched  by  the 
strings.  The  style  of  this  lament  is  a  kind  of  dramatic  recitation,  closely 
following  the  rhythm  and  melody  of  German  speech,  and  adorned  with 
tonal  pictures  inspired  by  the  text. 

On  a  much  larger  scale  is  the  second  lament  written  for  bass  solo 
accompanied  by  five  stringed  instruments,  Wie  bist  du  denn^  0  Gott,  im 

CANTATAS    OF    JOHANN    CHRISTOPH   ( I  3)  53 

Zorn  aufmich  entbrannt  (How  art  Thou,  God,  enraged  in  fury  against  me; 
Schn.  58),  which  is  based  on  a  17th-century  version  of  the  penitential 
psalms.  This  too  was  originally  attributed  to  another  composer,  Johann 
Philipp  Krieger  (1649- 172 5),  and  has  only  recently  been  recognized  as  the 
work  of  Johann  Christoph  Bach.1  It  is  a  powerful  composition  in  five 
extensive  sections.  In  contrast  to  the  preceding  work  the  stringed  instru- 
ments, particularly  the  violin,  which  is  treated  with  the  greatest  brilliance, 
play  an  important  part  in  its  development.2  A  dignified  introduction  in 
the  main  key  of  e  prepares  for  the  entrance  of  the  voice.  Each  of  the 
following  three  sections  starts  quietly,  accompanied  by  the  continuo  only. 
After  a  few  measures  the  strings  enter  and  gradually  the  expression  be- 
comes more  passionate,  building  up  towards  a  climax.  The  most  dramatic 
section  is  the  third,  in  which  the  agitated  figures  of  the  violin  depict  the 
merciless  treatment  that  the  sufferer  is  accorded  by  God.  In  the  last  part 
the  tormented  soul  tells  of  its  anguish  and  fear.  The  rhythm  changes  from 
common  to  triple  time;  the  prayer  becomes  more  ardent  until  the  words 
are  reached:  'My  God,  no  longer  be  inflamed  in  wrath  against  me,  let 
Thine  anger  be  transformed  into  goodness.'  Hope  gradually  replaces 
despair  and  the  final  measure  of  the  lament  by  its  melodic  inversion 
{Ex.  12)  expresses  most  graphically  that  the  harassed  spirit  is  looking 


ge  . 




'   r                "                         ^ 




*  *r 



'  f 



Or  1 






forward  to  a  reversal  of  its  fate.  Although  this  cantata  makes  excessive 
demands  on  the  vocal  range  of  the  singer  (almost  two  octaves),  its 
sincerity,  poignancy,  and  fire  amply  repay  the  artist. 

The  wedding  cantata  Meine  Freundin,  du  hist  schon  (My  love,  thou 
art  fair;  Schn.  71)  for  four  solo  voices,  chorus,  violin,  three  violas,  and 
basso  continuo,  based  mainly  on  words  from  the  Song  of  Solomon,  holds 

1  Cf.  EDM,  I,  p.  viii;  BJ,  1907,  p.  132;  and  SIMG,  I,  1899/1900,  p.  214. 

2  Max  Seiffert,  the  editor  of  the  work  (in  DDT,  zweite  Folge,  VI,  1,  p.  125)  suggests 
the  use  of  a  bassoon  for  the  fourth  part  in  the  score.  This  is  hardly  appropriate,  since 
in  a  list  of  music  left  by  F.  E.  Praetorius  (1655-95)  the  work  is  catalogued  as  written  for  'B. 
solo,  1  Violine,  3  Violen  con  B.  cont.' 

54  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

a  unique  position  among  the  works  of  Johann  Christoph.  It  displays  a 
robust  sense  of  humour  one  is  hardly  led  to  expect  from  a  composer  of 
such  lofty  works  as  Ich  lasse  dich  nicht  or  Der  Gerechte.  To  treat  the 
venerated  Song  of  Solomon,  which  was  usually  interpreted  in  a  purely 
symbolic  fashion,  in  so  realistic  a  manner  for  a  wedding  celebration  was 
highly  unorthodox,  and  bound  to  create  hilarity  among  the  listeners. 
Moreover,  Johann  Christoph  added  a  running  commentary  to  be  recited 
before  or  during  the  performance,  which  brings  into  relief  the  inherent 
humour  of  the  composition,  intensifying  it  by  facetious  observations. 
The  'Wedding  Cantata'  was  a  great  favourite  among  the  Bachs. 
Ambrosius  copied  the  parts  and  the  commentary — indeed,  it  is  not  at  all 
unlikely  that  he  co-operated  with  his  cousin  in  preparing  it  for  a  special 
occasion.  Sebastian,  on  the  other  hand,  took  the  trouble  to  make  a  new 
cover  for  the  parts  his  father  had  copied. 

As  an  example  of  the  Bachs'  earthy  sense  of  humour,  most  of  this 
commentary  is  reproduced  here. 

'A  lover  saunters  along,  all  by  himself,  as  the  bass  illustrates.  Un- 
expectedly he  comes  across  his  sweetheart,  whom  he  addresses  flatteringly: 
My  love,  thou  art  fair.  Moreover  he  gives  her  food  for  thought  by  saying: 
Turn  away  thine  eyes  from  me,  for  they  overcome  me.  Possibly  he  is  afraid 
that  people  might  read  his  inmost  thoughts  in  his  eyes. 

'His  sweetheart,  acting  like  a  true  German  [in  a  straightforward  way] 
and  also  longing  for  a  suitable  and  convenient  place  wherein  to  express 
her  pure  love  without  being  disturbed,  answers:  0  that  thou  wert  really  my 
brother,  that  I  might  find  thee  in  the  street,  kiss  thee,  and  no  one  despise  me. 
But  presently  she  offers  him  a  chance  saying:  Let  my  beloved  come  into  his 
garden.  The  lover,  who  did  not  expect  so  bold  a  suggestion,  but  is  anxious 
not  to  make  her  suspect  from  his  long  silence  that  he  might  refuse  or  be 
timid  and  irresolute,  declares  himself  quickly:  /  come  to  my  garden,  my 
sister,  my  bride.  After  they  have  thus  agreed  to  meet .  .  .  they  part,  this 
time  quickly,  without  any  long-winded  Finale.  .  .  . 

'The  girl  takes  a  chackan1  [heavy  stick]  in  her  hand  and  walks  to  the 
garden.  On  the  way  she  is  in  a  cheerful  mood  and  constantly  talks  to  her- 
self, showing  herself  gay  and  merry  in  different  ways,  which  the  violin 
illustrates  [in  a  ciaccona]  with  many  variations.  She  also  imagines  in 
natural  colours  the  one  or  other  thing  which  is  going  to  happen  in  the 
garden  (quite  likely  it  is  not  her  first  visit  either!).  Therefore  she  delights 

1  The  author  employs  here  the  unusual  Slavonic  expression  chackan,  as  the  composition 
turns  at  this  point  into  a  ciaccona  (chaconne). 

CANTATAS    OF    JOHANN    CHRISTOPH   ( I  3)  55 

herself  with  these  words:  My  beloved  is  mine  and  I  am  his;  hefeedeth  among 
the  lilies  and  his  desire  is  toward  me;  his  left  hand  is  under  my  head  and  his 
right  hand  doth  embrace  me.  .  .  .  Mostly,  however,  she  utters  these  words 
in  between:  My  beloved  is  mine,  and  I  am  his,  words  of  which  undoubtedly 
her  heart  must  have  been  full. 

'When  she  is  not  far  from  the  garden,  a  couple  of  men  suddenly  appear 
crossing  the  field;  and  as  they  have  probably  often  seen  this  girl  wandering 
to  the  garden,  or  perhaps  have  heard  gossip  about  the  affair,  they  do  not 
inquire  in  the  usual  fashion,  asking  "Where  from?  Whither?  Why  alone?", 
but  act  as  though  they  knew  already  whom  she  was  looking  for,  and 
therefore  inquire:  Whither  is  thy  beloved  gone?,  flattering  her  at  the  same 
time  by  saying:  Oh,  thou  fairest  among  women. 

'She,  who  does  not  keep  it  secret  any  more  and  probably  does  not 
mind  being  teased  about  it,  admits:  My  beloved  is  gone  down  into  his 
garden  to  the  beds  of  spices,  to  feed  in  the  garden  and  to  gather  lilies. 

'Thereupon  both  out  of  politeness  offer  to  accompany  her:  That  we 
may  seek  him  with  thee. 

'After  that  the  two  men  walk  up  and  down  in  the  garden.  The  basso 
continuo  runs  round  continuously  and  searches;  the  other  instruments 
also  move  occasionally,  then  again  they  stop  and  look  around,  until 
finally,  when  they  perceive  the  lover  in  the  garden,  they  all  unite  and  pay 
their  respects  in  a  piano  and  adagio  passage. 

'He,  the  lover,  while  certainly  expecting  his  sweetheart  alone  and  not 
with  such  a  retinue,  appreciates  that  these  men  have  joined  her  only  to 
serve  her;  moreover  they  are  not  strangers  but  a  couple  of  good  friends, 
so  he  greets  them  telling  them  what  he  did  in  the  garden:  /  have  gathered 
my  myrrh  with  my  spice.  .  .  . 

'And  after  he  has  led  them  all  into  the  little  pavilion  and  set  refresh- 
ments and  food  on  the  table,  he  as  well  as  his  sweetheart,  who  has  some- 
what assumed  the  role  of  hostess,  exclaim  .  .  .  Eat,  0  friends;  drink,  0 
beloved,  and  become  drunk)- 

'When  the  feast  is  over,  one  hears  the  guests  call  to  the  musicians:  The 
gratias,  thus  letting  them  know  that  they  should  intone  a  song  of  thanks; 
whereupon  the  musicians  play  the  chorale,  while  all  those  present  join  in 
singing,  and  the  instruments  keep  active  as  well. 

'Finally,  as  everyone  shows  the  effects  of  the  entertainment,  it  is 
decided  to  break  up  the  party.  Thus  one  hears  everywhere:  Good  night! 
Sleep  well!  Many  thanks  !  Good  luck  !  For  you  too  !' 

1  The  Luther  translation  used  by  the  composer  has  here  the  words  und  werdet  trunken 
(and  become  drunk),  while  the  King  James  version  reads  'drink  abundandy.' 

5<5  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

The  music  of  the  cantata  reaches  its  climax  in  a  ciaccona  with  66  varia- 
tions for  voice  and  strings,  based  on  the  theme  in  Ex.  13.  It  serves  the 

Vj      J  ,J  I 






J       .J       1 





bride  to  express  her  deep  love  for  the  groom,  and  the  composer  seems  to 
have  chosen  this  particular  form  to  demonstrate  that  every  utterance  of 
an  infatuated  person  appears  like  a  new  variation  on  the  same  theme. 
Johann  Christoph's  fine  sense  of  balance  and  proportion  leads  him  to 
establish  in  this  number,  with  the  help  of  harmonic  changes,  a  kind  of 
rondo  form  within  the  larger  framework  of  the  ciaccona.1  When  the 
scene  turns  into  a  feast,  a  big  ensemble  develops  in  which,  for  the  first 
time,  the  chorus  joins  with  brief  exclamations.  The  composer  takes  special 
delight  in  the  invitation  of  the  text  to  get  drunk,  which  the  voices  present 
with  a  sort  of  hiccough  {Ex.  14).  The  end  of  the  composition,  how- 

■£x.  14- 

vndyftr.dti    irun 

and  W£r.  clei 


ever,  reverts  to  the  serious  character  sanctioned  by  tradition.  In  a  dignified 
hymn  solo  voices  and  chorus  join  to  express  thanks  to  God  for  His  gifts. 
The  very  last  note  (G)  of  all  the  singers  is  held  for  ten  measures  and 
gradually  dies  away,  while  the  violin  alone  keeps  up  the  motion,  thus 
describing  the  reluctant  departure  of  the  guests. 

Another  cantata  of  a  pseudo-dramatic  character  is  Die  Furcht  des 
Herren  (The  fear  of  the  Lord;  not  enumerated  in  Schn.)  for  five  solo 
voices,  mixed  chorus,  strings  and  organ.  In  the  score,  written  by  Johann 
Christoph  himself,  most  of  the  singers,  and  even  the  instrumental  basso 
continuo,  are  identified  with  one  or  other  of  the  functionaries  of  a  city, 
thus  suggesting  a  performance  in  honour  of  a  newly  elected  city  council. 
The  bass,  for  instance,  is  called  'the  senior  mayor,'  the  chorus  'the  whole 
city  council,'  and  the  basso  continuo  (organ)  'the  dry  clerk.'  In  the  main 
section  of  this  composition,  each  line  of  a  prayer  is  started  by  the  senior 

1  Var.  1-17  are  in  the  tonic,  18-22  in  the  dominant,  33-51  again  in  the  tonic,  52-59  in 
the  subdominant,  and  60-66  back  in  the  tonic. 

CANTATAS    OF    JOHANN    CHRISTOPH    ( I  3)  57 

city  chamberlain  (tenor),  and  after  a  measure  or  two  the  rest  of  the  singers 
and  placers  join  him.  Particularly  moving  is  the  middle  part,  a  secular 
version  of  the  traditional  combination  between  church  hymn  and  Bible 
text.  'Wisdom'  (soprano),  boasting  of  its  great  merits,  is  implored  by  the 
city  functionaries  to  impart  to  them  something  of  its  blessing.  The  single 
soprano  voice  is  confronted  by  solo  quartet  and  full  chorus,  and  the  loose 
polyphonic  texture  realistically  describes  with  its  successive  entrances  and 
imitations  the  uncertainty  and  confusion  of  men  pining  for  enlightenment. 
When  'Wisdom'  proudly  announces  'Kings  are  ruling  through  me,'  both 
the  melody  of  the  voice  and  the  accompaniment  of  strings  imitate  trumpet 
fanfares.  Johann  Sebastian  wrote  various  works  on  a  much  larger  scale 
for  similar  occasions.  Yet  the  less  pretentious  composition  of  his  kinsman 
by  no  means  suffers  by  comparison  with  them. 

The  St.  Michael's  Day  cantata  Es  erhub  sick  ein  Streit  (And  there  was 
war  in  heaven;  Schn.  69)  is  the  biggest  and,  as  far  as  orchestration  goes, 
the  most  ambitious  work  that  Johann  Christoph  created.  Philipp  Emanuel 
wrote  about  it  in  a  letter  to  Forkel:1  'This  composition  in  22  parts  is  a 
masterpiece.  My  blessed  father  performed  it  once  in  a  church  at  Leipzig 
and  everybody  was  surprised  by  the  effect  it  made.  I  have  not  enough 
singers  here  [in  Hamburg],  or  else  I  would  produce  it  sometime.'  The 
cantata  is  based  on  Revelation  xii,  7-12,  and  modelled  on  the  lines  of  a 
composition  using  the  same  text  by  Andreas  Hammerschmidt,2  whose 
works  were  well  known  to  the  older  Bachs.  Its  subject,  the  war  of  Michael 
and  his  angels  against  'that  old  serpent  called  the  Devil  and  Satan,'  is  a 
monumental  one  and  very  well  suited  to  the  belligerent  personality  of  its 
composer.  The  treatment  of  the  Scripture  words  is  epic  and  oratorio-like; 
majestic  power  and  restrained  dramatic  fire  give  to  this  outsized  com- 
position a  character  of  its  own.  The  22  parts  to  which  Emanuel  refers  in 
his  letter  are  formed  by  two  five-part  choirs,  two  violins,  four  violas, 
continuo  [bassoon  and  organ]  and — a  most  uncommon  feature  in  the 
works  of  the  earlier  Bachs — four  trumpets  and  timpani.  The  cantata 
begins  with  a  two-part  Sonata,  in  character  somewhat  reminiscent  of  a 
French  Overture.  An  imitative  recitative  by  two  basses  leads  to  the  first 
climax:  the  description  of  the  struggle  between  the  powers  of  light  and  of 
darkness.  This  gigantic  tone  picture,  in  which  the  trumpets  hold  a  promi- 
nent place,  is  for  more  than  50  measures  exclusively  based  on  the  single 
triad  of  C.  A  brilliant  instrumental  section,  describing  the  triumph  of  the 
angels,  concludes  this  part.  Johann  Sebastian,  who  set  the  same  scene  to 

1  Dated  Hamburg,  September  20,  1775.  See  Bitter,  'C.P.E. .  . .  Bach,'  I,  343. 

2  'Andern  Theil  geisdicher  Gesprache  iiber  die  Evangelia,'  Dresden,  1656,  No.  26. 

58  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

music,  was  obviously  influenced  by  the  work  of  his  cousin.  However,  he 
not  only  used  a  great  variety  of  forms  (recitative,  aria,  chorale,  and  poly- 
phonic chorus),  but  he  also  divided  the  words  of  the  Scripture  between 
two  independent  cantatas  (Nos.  19  and  50).  Johann  Christoph  unites  both 
sections  into  a  single  mighty  work.1  He  comes  to  a  second  culmination 
when  the  words  'Now  is  come  salvation,  and  strength'  are  pronounced, 
and  a  third  one  to  describe  at  the  end  the  general  rejoicing.  However,  in 
some  respects  the  composer  strives  at  more  economy  than  seems 
advantageous  to  his  work.  There  are  no  solo  voices,  polyphonic  devices 
are  sparingly  employed,  and  the  harmonies  are  of  the  utmost  simplicity 
and  limited  diversity.  This  is  a  work  full  of  interesting  orchestral  effects; 
it  made  the  greatest  contribution  towards  the  fame  of  its  author,  but  it 
may  be  doubted  whether  it  is  actually  his  strongest  and  most  inspired 

Philip  Spitta  called  the  organ  works  of  Johann  Christoph  Bach  'im- 
perfect' and  'disappointing  to  anybody  who  knows  the  master's  vocal 
output.'  This  severe  verdict  was  obviously  caused  by  an  insufficient  in- 
sight into  the  meaning  and  purpose  of  this  part  of  the  composer's  music. 
The  44  Chorale  welche  bey  warenden  Gottes  Dienst  %um  prdambulieren 
gebraucht  werden  konnen  (chorales  to  be  used  as  preludes  during  the 
service;  Schn.  82)  are  mere  improvisations  on  the  organ  which  Johann 
Christoph  committed  to  paper,  possibly  for  the  benefit  of  his  pupils.  The 
collection  consists  of  short  and  easy  pieces  intended  to  prepare  the 
congregation  for  the  following  hymn,  and  presenting  no  particular 
technical  difficulty  even  to  an  organist  of  mediocre  executive  ability.  This 
is  music  for  practical  purposes,  designed  to  save  the  player  the  trouble  of 
improvising  a  chorale  prelude  on  the  spur  of  the  moment,  and  at  the  same 
time  of  such  simple  texture  as  not  to  lead  the  audience  to  suspect  its 
previous  composition.  In  accordance  with  Mattheson's  recommendations 
for  organ  improvisations,2  none  of  the  preludes  exceeds  two  minutes. 
No  early  print  of  the  collection  has  yet  been  unearthed,  but  the  title  of 
the  existing  manuscripts  with  the  remark  'composed  and  edited  by 
Johann  Christoph  Bach'  implies  that  the  author  intended  his  work  for 

Like  the  preludes  of  Pachelbel,  each  of  the  44  chorales  begins  with  a 
brief  fugato.  In  contrast  to  this  polyphonic  section,  the  second  half  of  the 

1  Johann  Christoph  Friedrich  (the  'Biickeburg')  Bach,  who  dealt  with  the  same 
subject  in  his  cantata  Michaels  Sieg  (cf.  p.  401),  was  influenced  by  his  father's  work; 
yet,  like  the  former  Johann  Christoph,  he  used  both  sections  of  the  text  in  his  composition. 

2  'Grosse  Generalbasslehre,'  1725-27. 

ORGAN    WORKS    OF    JOHANN    CHRISTOPH    ( 1 3) 


prelude  introduces  as  a  rule  a  more  homophonic  texture,  employing  a 
pedal  point  which  serves  as  a  kind  of  extended  cadence,  and  gives  stability 
to  this  part  of  the  composition.  In  about  half  his  preludes  Johann 
Christoph  follows  the  style  of  older  masters,  such  as  Scheidt  and  Ahle. 
He  uses  the  entire  chorale  melody,  entrusting  the  fugato  with  the  first  line 
of  the  hymn  and  the  pedal  point  section  with  the  remainder.  In  more 
than  20  of  his  preludes,  however,  Johann  Christoph  works  with  selected 
lines  of  the  hymn  tune  only,  even  occasionally  confining  himself  to  the 
single  line  of  the  beginning.  The  composer's  contrapuntal  treatment  is  of 
the  simplest  kind.  Parallel  thirds  and  sixths  are  frequently  employed,  and 
while  rarely  more  than  three  parts  are  played  simultaneously,  a  sort  of 
mock  polyphony  is  used  which  makes  the  listener  imagine  the  presence  of 
four  or  even  five  real  voices.1  No.  13,  Nun  lasst  uns  Gott  den  Herren  loben 
(Now  let  us  praise  God  the  Lord),  for  instance,  is  a  three-part  composi- 
tion, introducing  five  entrances  of  the  fugue  theme,  each  on  a  different 
level  and  with  not  less  than  three  octaves  between  the  highest  and  lowest 
statement.  Stretti,  although  not  very  frequent,  are  occasionally  to  be 
found  in  this  collection  (cf.  Nos.  3,  11,  13). 

There  are  many  attractive  pieces  in  this  set  of  preludes.  No.  9,  Wir 
glauben  all  an  einen  Gott  (We  believe  all  in  one  God)  with  its  interesting 
combination  of  different  motives  belongs  to  the  most  highly  developed 
pieces  of  the  collection.  No.  41,  Aus  meines  Helens  Grunde  (From  out 
my  heart  I  praise  the  Lord)  in  the  unusual  3/8  time  has  a  gay  and  light 
character  which  matches  the  joyous  content  of  the  text  extremely  well 
{Ex.  15).  Perhaps  the  finest  number  of  the  set  is  the  last  one,  Warum 


betriibst  du  dkh  mein  Her\?  (Why  art  thou  troubled,  oh  my  heart?).  This 
is  one  of  the  very  few  preludes  of  the  17th  century  which  does  not  merely 
attempt  to  follow  the  mood  of  the  chorale  text  in  a  general  way.  It  inter- 
prets the  changing  emotions  of  the  text  in  much  the  same  way  as  Sebastian 
was  to  do  in  the  chorale  preludes  of  his  Orgelbuchlein.  The  text  begins  with 
the  words:  'Why  art  thou  troubled,  oh  my  heart?  So  sore,  distressed  and 
sad  thou  art,  why  mourn  earth's  transient  joys?'  Accordingly  the  com- 

1  The  remark  in  the  Obituary  for  J.  S.  Bach  published  in  Mizler's  'Musikalische 
Bibliothek/  that  Johann  Christoph  never  used  less  than  five  real  parts  in  his  organ  playing, 
might  be  explained  in  this  way. 

60  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

position  introduces  chromatically  descending  passages  which,  since  the 
times  of  Monteverdi  and  Scheidt,  have  been  the  generally  accepted 
medium  of  expressing  sorrow  and  grief.  In  the  last  two  lines,  however, 
the  mood  changes  completely.  Here  the  text  reads:  Tut  thou  thy  trust 
in  God  the  Lord,  Creator,  He  by  all  adored.'  As  soon  as  the  composer 
reaches  these  lines  the  wailing  halftone  progressions  disappear;  the  music, 
supported  by  the  powerful  pedal  point,  expresses  serene  confidence  and 
trust  in  God.  This  prelude  is  so  far  ahead  of  its  time,  that  the  composer 
himself  seems  to  have  felt  he  overshot  the  mark,  and  desisted  from  any 
further  attempt  in  this  field. 

What  Johann  Christoph  was  able  to  achieve  in  strict  instrumental 
style  is  demonstrated  by  his  Praeludium  undFuge  ex  Dis  (E  flat;  Schn.  81). 
This  is  a  Toccata  with  runs  and  passages  displaying  the  brilliant  Italian 
writing  introduced  into  Germany  by  the  Austrian  court  organist,  Johann 
Jacob  Froberger.  In  the  middle  of  this  fine  fantasy  stands  a  four-part  fugue 
on  a  chromatic  descending  bass  theme.  It  comprises  45  measures  and  its 
construction  is  as  intricate  as  that  of  the  chorale  preludes  is  loose.  Johann 
Christoph  uses  four  real  parts,  without  any  attempt  at  giving  the  illusion 
of  a  greater  number  of  voices.  There  is  a  strong  rhythmic  motion,  the 
interesting  chromatic  theme  is  effectively  harmonized,  and  the  modula- 
tions are  logically  planned.  It  is  not  surprising  that  the  powerful  com- 
position was  long  considered  as  a  work  of  the  young  Johann  Sebastian 
and  was  published  as  such  by  the  editors  of  the  BG  (Jhrg.  xxxvi,  12). 

Johann  Christoph  was  also  active  in  the  field  of  clavier  music,  as  is 
shown  by  his  Sarabande.  Duodecies  variat.  (Schn.  76),  a  set  of  twelve  varia- 
tions on  a  saraband-like  theme.  This  composition,  which  to  judge  by  the 
echo  effects  it  employs  was  probably  meant  for  a  harpsichord  with  two 
manuals,  is  based  on  a  theme  of  the  simplest  kind,  the  formal  construction 
of  which  is  preserved  in  each  of  the  variations.  Nevertheless  the  effect  of 
the  composition  is  far  from  monotonous.  Johann  Christoph  gives  it 
greater  life  by  employing  a  slightly  unorthodox  pattern  of  repetition.  The 
first  eight  measures  of  the  theme  and  of  each  variation  are  played  twice  in 
the  ordinary  way;  the  second  eight  measures  are  subdivided,  and  the  per- 
former repeats  each  phrase  of  four  measures  separately.  Thus  an  illusion  of 
slight  asymmetry  is  created.  The  sixth,  and  still  more  the  twelfth  variation 
skilfully  employs  chromatic  effects  of  great  expressive  power.  The  archi- 
tecture of  the  whole  work  is  clear  and  logical.  The  motion  increases, 
reaching  a  climax  in  variations  5  and  7,  and  then  decreases  again.  In- 
dependently of  the  rest,  variations  Nos.  3,  6,  9,  and  12  provide  pauses  in 
the  natural  flow  of  the  whole  set,  by  reverting  to  the  more  meditative 

CLAVIER    WORKS    OF    JOHANN    CHRISTOPH    (13)  6l 

character  of  the  slow  saraband  theme.  It  can  hardly  be  doubted  that  Sebas- 
tian remembered  Johann  Christoph's  composition  while  working  on  his 
own  'Aria  with  30  Variations'  (cf.  p.  277).  The  fact  that  the  later  com- 
position is  likewise  in  G,  that  its  theme  is  in  3/4  time  and  of  saraband 
character,  and,  most  of  all,  that  here  too  a  clear  connection  between  every 
third  variation  can  be  detected,  are  proof  enough.  Obviously  this  is 
another  of  the  many  instances  when  Sebastian  was  stimulated  and  inspired 
by  the  artistic  heritage  of  his  ancestors. 

Closely  related  to  the  variations  on  a  saraband  is  Johann  Christoph's 
Aria  Eberliniana  pro  dormiente  Camillo,  variata  (Schn.  77),  a  set  of  fifteen 
variations  on  an  air  by  Eberlin  written,  according  to  the  original,  in  March 
1690.  The  theme  is  the  work  of  the  Eisenach  court  composer,  Daniel 
Eberlin  (cf.  p.  30),  who,  in  spite  of  his  rather  varied  interests,  was  an 
outstanding  musician  according  to  the  testimony  of  his  son-in-law,  Georg 
Philipp  Telemann.  Nothing  is  known  about  the  origin  of  his  aria  'for  the 
sleeping  Camillo,'  but  it  must  have  been  a  rather  well-known  piece,  since 
as  late  as  171 3  Johann  Heinrich  Buttstadt  used  part  of  it  as  a  theme  for  a 
set  of  variations.1  Johann  Christoph  preserves  the  very  simple  and  rather 
charming  melody  in  almost  half  his  variations,  furnishing  it  in  each 
successive  piece  with  new  counterpoints.  Variations  9  and  11,  which  do 
not  fit  into  the  overall  pattern  of  a  gradually  intensified  and  subsequently 
slowed-up  rhythmic  motion,  are  perhaps  the  most  attractive  pieces  of  the 
set.  No.  9  is  a  chromatic  variation  with  progressions  of  rare  boldness 
and  expressive  power  (Ex.  16),  while  the  nth  places  the  melody  of  the 

fa  "r  r    r 

\  n^  i 

*JijJb]  1 





f    'iT^f 




air  into  the  tenor,  surrounding  it,  as  in  a  medieval  motet,  with  highly 
significant  counter-melodies.  If  the  set  in  G  was  primarily  intended  for  the 
harpsichord,  the  almost  romantic  feeling  of  the  'Aria  Eberliniana'  would 
call  for  the  use  of  a  clavichord,  the  only  keyboard  instrument  of  the 
period  on  which  a  modulation  of  tone  was  possible.  While  the  'Varia- 
tions on  a  Saraband'  influenced  Sebastian,  this  work  with  its  stronger 
emotional  life  points  the  way  towards  the  clavichord  composer  Philipp 

1  In  'Musicalische   Klavier-Kunst  und   Vorraths-Kammer.'  Cf.   Conrad   Freyse   in 
publications  of  Neue  Bach  Gesellschaft,  XXXIX/2. 

62  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

Emanuel.  However,  Sebastian  also  knew  the  composition,  as  the  ioth 
variation  of  the  'Aria  Eberliniana'  seems  to  have  been  the  model  for  the 
younger  master's  organ  chorale  Wer  nur  den  lieben  Gott  lasst  waken  from 
the  Orgelbiichlein.  Not  only  the  gay  and  energetic  rhythm,  but  the  whole 
treatment  of  the  cantus  Jirmus  and  even  the  lengths  of  the  pieces  are  similar. 
No  other  works  of  Johann  Christoph  are  accessible  in  our  time.1 
Those  that  have  survived  prove  that  the  Eisenach  organist's  composi- 
tions were  not  only  important  as  an  inspiration  and  model  for  the 
works  of  later  members  of  the  Bach  family,  particularly  Sebastian; 
they  are  masterpieces  in  their  own  right,  written  by  a  man  who  un- 
doubtedly belongs  to  the  most  remarkable  composers  of  his  period. 

1  A  set  of  clavier  variations  in  a,  the  manuscript  of  which  Philipp  Spitta  owned, 
seems  to  be  lost  to-day.      Cf.  Schn.  78. 




Christoph  Bach  (5) 

Georg  Christoph  (10) 

J.  Valentin  (21) 

J.  Elias  (39) 

J.  Christoph  (12)  J.  Ambrosius  (n)=Elisab.  Lammerhirt 

1645-93  1645-95  1644-94 

J.  Ernst  (25)        J.  Christoph  (22) 
1683-1739  1671-1721 

J.  Sebastian  (24) 

Ohrdruf  line 

J.  Jakob  (23) 

when  Christoph  Bach  (5),  the  brother  of  Johann  and  Heinrich,  died  in 
Arnstadt  at  the  age  of  48,  he  left  behind  three  sons  and  a  half-witted 
daughter  (cf.  p.  65).1  The  eldest,  Georg  Christoph  (10),  born  on 
September  6,  1642,  was  best  able  to  fend  for  himself.  Probably  with  the 
help  of  his  relatives  in  Suhl,  the  Hoffmann  family  (cf.  p.  13),  he  obtained 
a  post  as  assistant  to  the  teacher  in  a  nearby  school,  and  while  thus 
supporting  himself,  he  continued  his  studies  with  such  success  that  in 
1668  he  was  appointed  Cantor  of  the  town  of  Themar.  This  meant  an 
important  step  upwards  on  the  social  ladder.  Not  only  was  the  Cantor 
director  of  the  church  music,  and  thus  the  superior  of  the  organist  and 
the  town  musicians  who  played  in  church,  but  he  also  had  to  instruct  the 
young  people  in  the  Latin  school.  In  filling  such  positions  preference  was 
given  to  men  who  had  studied  at  a  University,  and  it  is  a  well-known  fact 
that  the  Leipzig  authorities  hesitated  to  appoint  Sebastian  Bach  because 
of  his  lack  of  a  University  degree.  The  Council  of  the  little  town  of  Themar 
was,  of  course,  less  exacting,  but  nevertheless  Georg  Christoph  must 
have  been  an  educated  man  to  get  the  appointment.  Apparently  he  did 
well  in  this  position;  for  he  stayed  twenty  years  at  Themar,  after  which  he 

1  The  Erfurt  register  mentions  two  more  children  of  Christoph:  Johann  Jakob,  born 
1647,  and  Maria  Barbara,  born  165 1,  but  nothing  could  be  found  out  about  their  fate. 


64  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

was  called  in  the  same  capacity  to  the  more  important  city  of  Schweinfurt 
in  Franconia.1  This  town  had  tried  two  years  earlier  to  secure  the  services 
of  the  Eisenach  organist,  Johann  Christoph  Bach,  but  his  employers 
refused  their  permission  to  accept  the  call.  Thus  Georg  Christoph  was  the 
first  Bach  to  settle  down  in  Schweinfurt,  and  he  became  the  founder  of  a 
long  line  of  Franconian  Bach  musicians.  His  two  brothers,  Johann 
Christoph  and  Ambrosius,  were  naturally  anxious  to  see  what  life  in 
Schweinfurt  was  like.  So  one  year  after  Georg  Christoph's  appointment, 
they  paid  him  a  visit  to  celebrate  his  birthday,  and  so  pleased  was  the 
eldest  brother  by  this  family  reunion  that  he  wrote  a  cantata  on  the  words 
of  Psalm  133,  Siehe,  wie  fein  und  lieblich  (Behold,  how  good  and  how 
pleasant  it  is  for  brethren  to  dwell  together  in  unity).  The  pretty  title- 
page  painted  in  watercolours  (111.  VII),  which  like  the  composition  itself 
was  preserved  in  the  Alt-Bachisches  Archiv,  carries  the  following  inscrip- 
tion in  Latin: 

The  triple  team  of  the  German  Bach  brothers  and  its  flourishing,  sweet  and  firm 
concord,  demonstrated  with  the  help  of  Psalm  133  and  adorned  by  music  for  two  tenors, 
bass,  violin,  3  viole  da  gamba  and  continuo  by  the  eldest  brother,  Georg  Christoph  Bach, 
Cantor  in  Schweinfurt,  on  the  6th  September  1689,  on  which  day  he  reached  with  the  help 
of  God  his  47th  year. 

Everything  in  this  work  is  intended  to  express  the  complete  concord  of  the 
three  brothers.  The  illustrations  on  the  title-page  show  under  the  word 
'flourishing'  a  hand  holding  a  rAree-leaf  clover,  under  'sweet'  a  triangle 
with  three  rings,  and  under  'firm'  a  lock  with  three  chains.  In  the  same  way 
the  composition  is  written  for  three  solo  voices  (two  tenors  and  one  bass); 
it  uses  three  viole  da  gamba  among  the  accompanying  instruments;  there 
are  usually  three  entrances  of  every  subject;  and  the  instrumental  intro- 
duction develops  three  successive  themes.  In  spite  of  the  rather  humorous 
persistency  with  which  the  triad  is  emphasized  all  through  this 
composition,  the  work  is  artistically  significant  proving  that  Georg 
Christoph  was  both  talented  and  well  trained.  The  instrumental  Praelu- 
dium  consists  of  one  section  in  common  and  one  in  triple  time.  This 
arrangement  is  adhered  to  in  the  vocal  section,  where,  moreover,  the 
composer,  near  the  end,  repeats  the  text  and  music  of  the  beginning,  thus 
creating  a  kind  of  ternary  construction.  The  instrumental  interludes 
develop  themes  which  are  subsequently  taken  up  by  the  voices,  and 
altogether  an  uncommonly  compact  and  strongly  unified  form  is  thus 

1  This  was  stated  by  Spitta,  I.e.  Recently  Oskar  Stapf  pointed  out  (in  'Johann 
Sebastian  Bach  in  Thiiringen')  that  Georg  Christoph's  name  does  not  appear  in  the 
Themar  church  or  school  registers  after  1683,  which  makes  it  seem  possible  that  the 
move  to  Schweinfurt  took  place  as  early  as  1684. 

Ham  bt 



•  Berlin 

Minden   .  .  gijckeburg 

•  Kothen 

Halle   •  . 


•  Muhlhausen  Dresden 

Eisenach     I       ,   Erfurt   -Weimar 
/  Cotha  .Jena 

Ohrdruf'     'Arnstadt 

SCALE  1:3  Z9S.OOO 
o . £0 1 

i.   The  Bach  cities  on  the  map  of  Germany 


created.  The  composition  is  energetic,  fiery,  and  brilliant;  it  contains 
interesting  parts  both  for  voices  and  instruments,  which  more  than  com- 
pensate for  the  obvious  weaknesses  in  the  contrapuntal  treatment  caused 
partly  by  the  programme-like  character  of  the  cantata. 

Georg  Christoph  seems  to  have  been  something  of  a  poet  too.  In  a 
collection  of  20,000  funeral  sermons  assembled  by  the  Dukes  of  Stolberg,1 
there  are  four  poems  which  the  learned  Cantor  wrote,  two  of  them  even 
in  Latin. 

Georg  Christoph  was  not  fated  to  enjoy  his  new  position  for  long.  He 
died  nine  years  after  his  appointment,  at  the  age  of  55.  Three  years  before 
his  death,  he  had  the  satisfaction  of  seeing  his  eldest  son,  Johann  Valentin 
(b.  1669),  engaged  as  town  musician  of  Schweinfurt.  Valentin's  sons 
followed  in  the  family  tradition.  The  second  one,  Johann  Elias  (b.  1705), 
Cantor  in  Schweinfurt  like  his  grandfather,  interests  us  the  most  as  we 
owe  to  him  the  preservation  of  valuable  biographical  material  about 
Sebastian  Bach  and  the  Thomas  Cantor's  family. 

Georg  Christoph's  two  younger  brothers,  Johann  Christoph  (12)  and 
Johann  Ambrosius,  with  whom  he  felt  so  closely  united,  were  twins,  born 
February  22,  1645.  Sebastian  merely  mentions  this  fact  in  the  Genealogy, 
but  his  son,  Philipp  Emanuel,  added  the  following  details,  which  he  must 
have  heard  again  and  again  in  the  family  circle:  'These  twins  are  perhaps 
the  only  ones  of  their  kind  known  [in  our  family].  They  loved  each  other 
tenderly,  and  looked  so  much  alike  that  even  their  own  wives  could  not 
distinguish  them.  They  were  a  subject  of  astonishment  to  noblemen  and 
everyone  who  saw  them.  Their  speech,  their  way  of  thinking — every- 
thing was  alike.  As  musicians,  too,  they  were  not  to  be  told  apart:  they 
played  similarly  and  planned  their  performances  in  the  same  way.'  The 
twins  were  only  16  when  they  lost  their  father  and  mother,  and  in  a  letter 
describing  their  desperate  financial  situation  they  asked  their  father's 
employer  to  allow  them  Christoph  Bach's  salary  for  the  current  quarter. 
This  the  Count  granted,  but  it  did  not  help  much,  and  the  family  had  to 
come  to  the  rescue,  especially  as  there  was  also  a  girl  to  provide  for,  who, 
according  to  the  petition  of  her  brothers,  was  'of  an  imbecile  mind  and 
misshapen  figure.'  The  twins  both  went  to  Erfurt  to  join  their  uncle 
Johann,  and  before  long  they  were  both  appointed  members  of  the  town 
band  to  which  their  father  had  belonged.2  Johann  Christoph  (12),  however, 

1  Cf.  'Mitteilungsblatt  des  Bach'schen  Familienverbandes,'  1939,  No.  2. 

2  Cf.  Otto  Rollert,  I.e. — Wiegand,  /.c,  did  not  agree  with  this  assumption,  but  has, 
according  to  personal  information  to  this  author,  changed  his  attitude  after  a  thorough 
study  of  the  Erfurt  archives,  and  now  accepts  Rollert's  theory. 

66  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

felt  drawn  towards  Arnstadt  and  he  tried  whenever  possible  to  play  there 
on  special  occasions.  Apparently  he  made  a  good  impression,  for  in  1671 
he  was  appointed  court  musician  by  Count  Ludwig  Gtinther  of  Schwarz- 
burg-Arnstadt.  The  violin  seems  to  have  been  his  main  instrument,  as 
the  contract  specifically  mentions  that  he  was  expected  'further  to  work 
on  the  elegance  and  grace  of  his  fiddling.'1  Apart  from  his  performances 
at  court  he  had  to  play  regularly  at  the  church  services,  in  the  musical 
improvement  of  which  the  Count  was  particularly  interested.  As  his 
yearly  salary  was  even  smaller  than  that  of  his  father  (cf.  p.  20), 
amounting  only  to  30  fl.  plus  a  certain  quantity  of  wood,  and  5  J  Mass  of 
grain,  he  needed  an  additional  source  of  income.  The  town  musician, 
Heinrich  Graser,  was  therefore  instructed  by  the  Count,  whenever  music 
was  to  be  played  at  special  functions,  to  invite  first  of  all  Johann  Christoph 
Bach  and  give  him  preference  over  the  town  musician's  assistants.  It  can 
well  be  imagined  that  such  vague  instructions  were  bound  to  lead  to 
disputes  among  the  musicians,  who  all  needed  these  Accidentien  so 
desperately.  In  fact,  the  Arnstadt  archives  hold  quite  a  number  of  petitions 
on  the  matter  from  Graser  as  well  as  Bach.  In  particular,  Graser,  an 
elderly  and  rather  embittered  man,  complained  in  the  most  aggressive 
way  about  his  young  colleague.  He  could  not  help  being  jealous  of  the 
latter's  popularity  at  court  and  once  exclaimed:  If  my  name  were  Bach, 
I  would  find  help  everywhere!'  It  was  also  a  blow  to  his  pride  when  the 
burgomaster's  son,  anxious  to  have  a  really  first-class  entertainment  at  his 
wedding,  asked  young  Johann  Christoph  to  provide  the  music  together 
with  his  twin  brother  and  a  cousin,  all  of  whom  had  to  travel  from 
Erfurt  to  Arnstadt  for  this  purpose.2  Graser  therefore  fought  against 
Johann  Christoph  with  all  the  weapons  at  his  disposal;  he  ridiculed  the 
court  musician's  violin  playing  as  'the  brushing  of  flies'  wings'  {Fliegen- 
gewedel);  he  complained  about  the  young  man's  'guzzling  of  tobacco,' 
arrogance,  and  so  forth.  When  he  eventually  began  to  utter  grave 
calumnies  against  the  whole  Bach  clan,  he  had  to  be  stopped.  In  1677  a 
joint  petition  was  made  by  the  Arnstadt  Bachs,  headed  by  old  Heinrich, 
together  with  their  Erfurt  cousins,  that  Graser  should  be  made  to  apolo- 
gize in  public.  A  compromise  was  finally  reached,  but  as  controversies 
continued  to  occur,  the  Count  dismissed  both  Graser  and  Johann 
Christoph  Bach  in  168 1.  Hard  times  followed;  however,  a  year  later,  when 

1  Cf.  H.  Albrecht  and  A.  Bach  (see  Bibliography),  and  Wiegand,  I.e. 

2  Formally  Graser' s  claim  was  justified,  as  Johann  Christoph  was  at  that  time  not 
yet  officially  appointed  in  Arnstadt,  but  it  may  be  assumed  that  the  burgomaster  paid 
Graser  the  compensation  customary  in  such  a  case. 

LIFE    OF    JOHANN    CHRISTOPH    ( 1 2)  6j 

the  old  sovereign  had  died,  Johann  Christoph  was  appointed  by  young 
Count  Anton  Gunther  both  as  court  and  town  musician,  with  the  exclusive 
privileges  his  father  had  enjoyed,1  while  Graser  was  left  without  an  official 
post.  The  new  ruler,  influenced  by  his  music-loving  wife,  the  Countess 
Auguste  Dorothea,2  made  great  efforts  to  improve  Arnstadt's  musical  life. 
In  1683  he  engaged  as  conductor  Adam  Drese,  an  excellent  viola  da 
gamba  player,  who  raised  the  court  orchestra  to  21  members,  among 
whom  the  Bachs  were  represented  by  Johann  Christoph,  his  uncle  Hein- 
rich  (so  long  as  he  was  physically  able),  his  cousin,  Johann  Michael  (14), 
and  Heinrich's  son-in-law,  Christoph  Herthum. 

Economic  difficulties  were  not  the  only  ones  Johann  Christoph  had 
to  surmount.  In  his  private  life  there  were  problems  as  well.  While  most 
of  the  Bachs  married  with  clockwork  regularity  as  soon  as  they  had 
reached  a  settled  position,3  Johann  Christoph  was  34  when  he  entered 
holy  matrimony  with  Martha  Elisabeth  Eisentraut,  daughter  of  a  school 
assistant  at  Ohrdruf.  Six  years  before,  he  had  passed  through  a  disturbing 
experience  which  made  him  reluctant  to  get  involved  with  the  fair  sex. 
He  had  been  courting  a  girl  at  Arnstadt,  and  had  even  given  her  a  ring,  at 
her  request,  but  he  eventually  came  to  the  conclusion  that  she  would  not 
be  the  right  wife  for  him,  whereupon  the  ring  was  returned.  The  church 
Consistory  of  Arnstadt  had  found  out  about  the  matter,  and  subjected 
both  the  girl  and  the  young  man  to  repeated  and  most  unpleasant  inter- 
rogatories which  dragged  on  for  almost  two  years.  As  no  real  offence 
could  be  proved,  the  Consistory  tried  by  persuasion  to  make  the  two 
young  people  decide  on  marriage.  The  girl  indeed  was  willing.  The 
young  man,  however,  showed  himself  most  obstinate.  The  more  pressure 
the  Consistory  exercised,  the  more  determined  he  became  to  preserve  his 
freedom.  Although  his  livelihood  depended  to  a  great  extent  on  the  very 
people  he  had  to  fight  in  this  matter,  Johann  Christoph  recklessly  decided 
to  appeal  to  the  higher  court,  the  Consistory  of  Weimar,  in  order  to 
obtain  his  rights.  There  he  pleaded  his  case  with  such  vigour  that  he  was 
absolved  of  any  responsibility  towards  the  girl.  The  incident  is  indeed 

1  They  were  even  extended  to  the  nearby  districts  of  Keula  and  Schermberg,  where 
no  one  but  Johann  Christoph  Bach  and  his  assistants  was  allowed  to  play.  The  resulting 
increase  in  Accidentien  caused  the  Count  to  reduce  Bach's  salary  at  court  to  20  fl. 

2  She  was  the  daughter  of  Duke  Anton  Ulrich  of  Wolfenbiittel,  who  was  a  great 
patron  of  music  and  dramatic  art.  A  sister  and  an  aunt  of  hers  achieved  similar  improve- 
ments to  the  theatres  at  the  courts  of  Coburg  and  Meiningen.  Cf.  Gresky,  'Die  Arnstadter 
Musikverhaltnisse  zur  Zeit  der  Bache,'  in  'Arnstadter  Anzeiger,'  1935. 

3  His  cousins,  Johann  Christoph  (13)  and  Johann  Michael  (14),  were  25  and  27 
respectively,  his  twin  brother,  Ambrosius,  only  23,  when  they  married. 

68  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

significant.  To  appreciate  Johann  Christoph' s  action,  we  should  bear  in 
mind  that  in  those  times,  and  in  that  social  sphere,  the  choice  of  a  wife 
was  far  from  being  a  matter  of  love.  It  was  dictated  mainly,  if  not 
exclusively,  by  economic  considerations.  Men  married  to  succeed  in  the 
father-in-law's  profession,  to  set  up  homes  of  their  own,  to  beget  children 
who  would  help  with  their  work.  Love  played  a  most  insignificant  part  in 
these  decisions.  It  would  have  been  quite  in  keeping  with  the  attitude 
then  prevalent  if  the  young  man,  after  being  gently  prodded  by  his 
spiritual  advisers,  had  married  the  girl.  But  Johann  Christoph  just  did  not 
like  to  be  prodded  in  any  way.  Instead  of  being  curbed  by  the  pressure 
brought  to  bear  upon  him,  he  mustered  up  courage  to  defy  his  superiors 
and  public  opinion  as  well.  Maybe  young  Sebastian  remembered  his 
stubborn  uncle's  attitude,  when  he  refused  to  be  talked  into  marrying  the 
daughter  of  Buxtehude,  in  order  to  succeed  to  the  great  master's  position 
in  Liibeck. 

This  outburst  of  resistance  was  eventually  forgiven,  and  Johann 
Christoph  enjoyed  great  esteem  and  popularity  in  Arnstadt.  For  although 
he  had  the  innate  stubbornness  of  all  the  Bachs,  he  was  quite  skilful  in 
handling  people,  certainly  more  skilful  than  his  great  cousin  and  name- 
sake, Johann  Christoph,  the  organist  of  Eisenach.  It  is  interesting  to  note 
how  he  became  the  proprietor  of  a  house  in  which  Bach  musicians  were 
to  live  for  many  years  to  come.  A  contract  between  Johann  Christoph 
Bach  and  an  aged  wealthy  baker's  widow  dated  September  12,  1687,  has 
been  preserved.  She  undertook  to  leave  him  her  house  with  its  entire 
furnishings,  a  garden,  and  six  acres  of  land,1  provided  he  would  lodge 
her,  take  care  of  her,  and  supply  her  with  warm  food  and  two  quarts  of 
beer  daily.  Johann  Christoph  undoubtedly  came  out  very  well  under  this 
agreement;  for  the  widow  died  only  a  few  months  later,  and  he  acquired 
a  good  house  and  other  property.  His  income,  too,  thanks  to  various 
Accidentien,  grew,  and  he  managed  to  save  quite  a  sizable  amount  of 
money.  But  again,  like  his  father  and  his  brothers,  he  was  not  fated  to 
enjoy  this  more  prosperous  state  of  affairs  for  long;  he  reached  exactly 
the  same  age  as  Christoph  Bach,  dying  when  48  years  old.  He  left  three 
children,  among  them  Johann  Ernst  (25),  who  was  to  be  Sebastian's 
successor  at  the  'New  Church'  of  Arnstadt. 

Among  the  music  of  the  Alt-Bachisches  Archiv  is  an  unidentified  com- 
position which   may   with   some  probability  be   ascribed   to  Johann 

1  The  house  was  at  Kohlgasse  No.  357,  now  No.  7,  which  still  stands  to-day;  the 
garden  at  Borngasse;  4  acres  on  Rabenhold,  2  acres  on  Eulenberg.  Cf.  Albrecht-Bach,  l.c, 
and  Wiegand,  l.c. 


Christoph.  The  manuscript  does  not  bear  any  name  or  initials,  and  the 
hand  of  the  writer  is  also  unknown.  However,  at  the  end  of  the  score  the 
date  'Arnstadt,  6  July,  1686'  is  to  be  found.  At  that  time  Heinrich  and 
Johann  Christoph  Bach  lived  in  Arnstadt,  but  as  Heinrich  was  a  man  of 
71  and  hardly  able  to  write  this  vigorous  piece,  it  seems  likely  that  we 
have  here  the  only  preserved  composition  by  Johann  Christoph  Bach 
(12).  Nun  ist  dies  iiberwunden  (Now  everything  is  overcome)  is  a  four- 
part  funeral  aria  similar  in  character  to  Johann  Bach's  JVeint  nicht  um 
meinen  Tod  (cf.  p.  26).  The  piece  is  in  common  time  without  any 
rhythmic  complications.  It  has  a  simple,  heart-rending  melody  and  an 
expressive  harmonization  effectively  alternating  between  the  keys  of  e  and 
G.  Each  of  the  six  verses  ends  with  the  same  words,  'Now  farewell  and 
good  night.'  Sebastian,  who  wrote  the  text  of  five  of  these  stanzas  on  a 
separate  piece  of  paper,  crossed  out  the  word  'now'  and  replaced  it  by 
'world.'  Thus  the  ending  of  the  verses  was  changed  to  'World,  farewell 
and  good  night,'  and  assumed  a  new  significance  and  beauty. 

Philipp  Emanuel  Bach  owned  an  oil-portrait1  of  his  grandfather, 
Johann  Ambrosius,  the  twin,  who  bore  so  striking  a  likeness  to  Johann 
Christoph.  This  portrait  (111.  VIII),  which  later  became  the  property  of 
the  Berlin  library,  shows  Ambrosius  without  the  customary  wig  or  the 
elaborate  costume  which  appears  in  most  portraits  of  the  time.  His 
camisole  is  open  at  the  neck,  and  a  coat  is  carelessly  wrapped  around  his 
figure.  His  attitude  is  not  stiff  and  ceremonious,  but  easy  and  natural,  so 
as  to  give  the  impression  that  he  has  just  made  music  in  his  workroom, 
through  the  window  of  which  the  Eisenach  Wartburg  is  to  be  seen.  The 
strong  throat,  the  massive  chin,  and  the  bold  fleshy  nose,  features  his  son 
Sebastian  was  to  inherit,  seem  to  proclaim  the  stubborn  tenacity  of  the 
Bach  clan.  His  shrewd  eyes  and  dark  hair  complete  the  picture  of  a  full- 
blooded,  vigorous  and  somewhat  earthy  personality.  It  may  well  be 
imagined  that  the  appearance  of  two  such  striking  men  who  were 
absolutely  alike  was  a  'subject  of  astonishment  to  everyone.' 

Ambrosius  started  his  musical  career  in  the  Erfurt  musical  band,  taking 
over  the  work  formerly  done  by  his  cousin,  Johann  Christian  (7),  who 
had  gone  to  Eisenach  to  assist  the  town  musician,  Christoffel  Schmidt. 
In  1667  Ambrosius  was  officially  appointed,  and  now  his  thoughts  turned 

1  It  is  likely  that  it  was  painted  by  an  employee  of  the  Eisenach  court,  perhaps  by 
Johann  David  Herlicius,  who  made  twelve  engravings  to  a  'Neues  vollstandiges  Gesang- 
buch'  printed  in  1673.  Cf.  Conrad  Freyse,  'Eisenacher  Dokumente  um  Sebastian  Bach,' 
publications  of  Neue  Bach  Gesellschaft,  1933,  and  Fritz  Rollberg,  'Johann  Ambrosius 
Bach,'  BJ,  1927. 

70  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

to  marriage.  In  the  house  of  his  uncle,  Johann  (4),  he  met  Elisabeth 
Lammerhirt,  who  was  a  much  younger  half-sister  of  Johann's  wife, 
Hedwig.1  She  lived  at  'The  Three  Roses'  on  Junkersand,  a  street  in  Erfurt 
where  all  the  Bachs  were  domiciled,  and  so  Ambrosius  and  Elisabeth  had 
plenty  of  opportunity  of  seeing  each  other.  Hardly  a  year  after 
Ambrosius'  definite  appointment,  the  wedding  took  place,  and  the 
couple  moved  into  a  neighbouring  house  on  Junkersand.  The  bridegroom 
was  23,  the  bride  one  year  older.  Elisabeth  probably  could  not  bring 
more  than  a  modest  dowry  to  Ambrosius,  for  her  father  was  dead  and  in 
the  seven  years  of  his  illness  most  of  the  little  fortune  he  had  accumulated 
had  been  spent.2  But  the  Lammerhirts  still  enjoyed  a  good  social 
standing — the  Genealogy  proudly  describes  Elisabeth  as  daughter  of 
Valentin,  'member  of  A  Noble  Council  in  Erfurt' — and  other  members 
of  the  family  were  still  well  off.  This  is  apparent  from  the  legacies  which 
Elisabeth's  brother,  Tobias,  subsequently  bequeathed  to  his  sister's 

Young  Ambrosius  was  not  over-anxious  to  stay  on  in  Erfurt,  as  his 
cousin,  Johann  Christian  (7),  had  returned  from  Eisenach  bent  on  resum- 
ing his  place  in  the  Erfurt  band.  A  chance  to  move  away  presented  itself 
when  the  Eisenach  town  musician,  Christoffel  Schmidt,  died.  Had 
Christian  not  left  Eisenach,  he  would  probably  have  succeeded  Schmidt, 
who  was  his  father-in-law.  But  as  he  had  returned  to  Erfurt,  the  eyes  of 
the  Eisenach  authorities  turned  to  another  Bach.  They  invited  Ambrosius 
to  give  a  trial  performance  at  the  Georgenkirche,  where  his  cousin,  the 
great  Johann  Christoph  (13),  had  been  organist  for  the  past  six  years. 
Ambrosius  appeared  there  on  October  12,  1671,4  and  gave  so  excellent 

1  Hugo  Lammerhirt,  BJ,  1925,  sees  in  Elisabeth  a  niece  of  Hedwig.  Ziller  in  'J-  H. 
Buttstadt'  contends  that  Elisabeth  was  a  half-sister  of  Hedwig,  an  assumption  upheld  also 
by  Rollert,  I.e. 

2  Cf.  Walter  Dieck,  'Die  Beziehungen  der  Familie  Bach  zu  Erfurt,'  in  'Thur.  Allg. 
Ztg.,'  1935. 

3  The  testament  granting  these  legacies  gives  us  some  idea  of  the  spiritual  atmosphere 
in  which  Elisabeth  had  grown  up.  This  document,  as  the  notary  points  out,  was  dictated 
by  Tobias,  the  uncle  of  Sebastian,  in  'clearly  audible  words,'  which  makes  it  obvious  that 
the  following  powerful  introduction  is  the  old  man's  own:  'Both  husband  and  wife  com- 
mend their  souls,  when  according  to  God's  gracious  will  they  shall  be  separated  from  their 
mortal  bodies,  into  the  hands  of  God,  their  dearest  heavenly  Father,  as  the  all-powerful 
Creator  of  heaven  and  earth,  and  into  those  of  His  son,  Jesus  Christ,  as  their  only 
Redeemer  and  Giver  of  bliss,  and  into  those  of  the  Holy  Ghost  which  in  holy  baptism  hath 
sanctified  them  unto  eternal  life;  but  their  bodies  they  commend  to  the  cool  earth,  which 
is  the  mother  of  us  all,  to  be  buried  in  it  according  to  Christian  custom.' 

4  Emanuel  Bach's  contention  in  the  Genealogy  that  the  twins  led  similar  lives  is 
confirmed  by  the  fact  that  Johann  Christoph  (12)  was  also  officially  appointed  in  1671. 


an  account  of  himself  that  even  from  the  outset  he  was  granted  better 
terms  than  his  predecessor.  While  Schmidt's  yearly  salary  from  the  town 
had  been  only  28  fl.,  to  which,  of  course,  the  Accidentien  were  added  as 
the  main  source  of  income,  Ambrosius  got  a  yearly  payment  of  40  fl.  4  gr. 
8  pf.,  plus  free  lodging  for  the  first  three  years  of  his  stay.1  His  duties 
were  to  play  'twice  a  day,  at  10  in  the  morning,  and  5  in  the  evening,  with 
his  four  men  on  the  tower  of  the  town  hall,  and  to  perform  at  church  on 
all  holidays  and  Sundays  before  and  after  the  morning  and  afternoon 
sermons,  according  to  the  Cantor's  instructions.' 

The  new  town  musician  certainly  knew  how  to  satisfy  his  superiors. 
A  relationship  developed  that  was  utterly  different  from  that  under  which 
his  cousin,  Johann  Christoph,  was  suffering.  A  few  months  after  his 
appointment  Ambrosius  petitioned  Prince  Johann  Georg  I  of  Eisenach, 
who  had  taken  over  the  government  soon  after  the  new  town  musician 
started  his  work,  to  be  allowed  to  brew  a  certain  amount  of  ale  tax  free. 
When  the  Prince  asked  for  the  Council's  opinion,  the  city  fathers  urged 
him  to  grant  Ambrosius  a  privilege  which  his  predecessor  had  also 
enjoyed,  adding:  'The  new  Hausmann  (town  musician)2  is  not  only 
conducting  himself  in  a  quiet  and  Christian  way  agreeable  to  everybody, 
but  in  addition  he  shows  such  outstanding  qualifications  in  his  profession 
that  he  can  perform  both  vocaliter  and  instrumentaliter  in  church  and  in 
honourable  gatherings  in  a  manner  we  cannot  remember  ever  to  have 
witnessed  in  this  place  before.5  This  was  of  course  sufficient  for 
Ambrosius  to  get  the  requested  permission.  Shortly  afterwards  the 
Council  suggested  to  the  Prince  that  during  periods  of  public  mourning 
after  the  death  of  a  member  of  the  princely  house,  when  instrumental 
music  was  forbidden  at  weddings,  etc.,  the  town  musician  should  be  com- 
pensated for  the  resulting  loss  of  Accidentien  by  payment  of  one  florin  for 
each  wedding.  Again  the  argument  ran  like  this:  'Such  a  compensation 
was  granted  to  the  former  Hausmann;  how  much  more  is  it  deserved  by 
the  present  most  competent  town  musician!'  The  Prince  agreed,  and  from 
a  statement  of  account  for  1672-73  we  learn  that  Ambrosius  was  paid 
20  fl.  under  this  title.  To  be  granted  such  a  premium  after  only  eighteen 
months'  service  was  something  unheard-of  in  the  impecunious  little 
Residenz.  There  is  no  doubt  that  Ambrosius  was  highly  thought  of  by 

1  Cf.  Stadtarchiv  Eisenach  B,  XXV,  CI,  where  the  documents  referring  to 
Ambrosius,  unless  specifically  mentioned,  are  to  be  found. 

2  Rollberg  in  'Von  den  Eisenacher  Stadtpfeifern,'  Jena,  1932,  claims  that  the 
expression  Hausmann  frequendy  used  for  the  town  musician  points  to  his  duties  in  the 
city  house,  i.e.  the  town  hall.  He  was  sometimes  also  called  Haustaube,  house-pigeon, 
because  of  his  domicile  in  the  city  tower. 

72  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

the  very  Council  which  had  not  a  single  word  of  appreciation  for  Johann 
Christoph  Bach's  outstanding  contribution  to  Eisenach's  musical  life.  In 
this  the  city  fathers  only  echoed  what  the  whole  population  felt.  Two 
other  contemporary  appreciations  relating  to  Ambrosius  have  been 
preserved.  One  is  by  a  certain  Georg  Dressel,  a  carpenter,  who  wrote  a 
chronicle  of  important  events  in  the  years  1 648-73. 1  Dressel  describes  a 
festal  Easter  service,  in  which  the  Cantor,  Schmidt,  and  the  organist, 
Johann  Christoph  Bach,  took  part  together  with  the  town  musician  and 
his  assistants.  The  chronicler's  entire  attention,  however,  is  centred  on 
brilliant  Ambrosius,  and  he  records:  '1672  at  Easter,  when  Prince  Johann 
Georg  and  his  spouse  made  their  entry,  the  new  Hausmann  performed 
with  organs,  violins,  singers,  trumpets  and  kettledrums,  as  no  Cantor  or 
Hausmann  has  done  as  long  as  Eisenach  stood.'  A  more  indirect  descrip- 
tion of  Ambrosius'  achievements  is  supplied  by  a  petition  which  his 
subsequent  colleague,  the  Cantor  Andreas  Christian  Dedekind,  made 
after  the  town  musician's  premature  death.  He  recommended  a  kinsman 
of  Ambrosius,  the  town  piper  Christoph  Hoffman  of  Suhl,  for  the  posi- 
tion and  remarked:  'Hoffmann  has  so  assiduously  worked  on  his  music, 
that  in  addition  to  good  violin  playing,  he  has  mastered  the  cornetto, 
trombone,  violone,  and  especially  the  trombetta,  and  eventually  may  hope 
almost  to  equal  Mr.  Bach.' 

It  is  obviously  easier  to  fall  under  the  spell  of  a  gifted  performer  than 
to  understand  the  new  creations  of  a  very  original  and  profound  com- 
poser. We  therefore  cannot  be  too  surprised  at  the  Council's  preference 
for  Ambrosius  over  his  cousin,  Johann  Christoph,  who,  on  the  performing 
side,  was  badly  handicapped  by  the  defective  instrument  of  St.  George's 
which  he  generally  used.  Moreover  artistic  reasons  were  not  the  only  ones 
urged  in  Ambrosius'  favour;  what  weighed  still  more  was  his  'quiet  and 
Christian'  conduct.  We  hear  nothing  of  debts,  advances,  or  frequent 
changes  of  domicile.  For  the  three  years  when  the  city  paid  the  rent, 
Ambrosius  lived  in  a  house,  which  still  stands  to-day  (111.  IX),  with  the 
chief  forester,  Balthasar  Schneider,  who  was  godfather  to  the  first  of  his 
tenant's  children  to  be  born  in  Eisenach.2  Afterwards  Ambrosius  bought 

1  Cf.  H.  Helmbold,  'Bilder  aus  Eisenachs  Vergangenheit,'  II,  Eisenach,  1928. 

2  This  house  (to-day  Rittergasse  11,  situated  at  the  back  of  the  present  Bach- 
Museum)  offers  with  its  beautiful  wood-carved  facade  a  fine  example  of  17th-century 
architecture.  It  is  the  only  house  in  Eisenach  which  can  definitely  be  proved  to  have 
been  the  domicile  of  Ambrosius  Bach,  while  the  old  tradition,  claiming  the  house  on 
Trauenplan  21,'  housing  the  Bach-Museum,  as  Sebastian's  birthplace,  is  not  upheld  by 
the  thorough  researches  of  Rollberg,  Helmbold,  and  Kiihn  (the  latter  a  Bach  descendant 
himself).  These  experts  ascertained  through  the  study  of  tax  assessments  and  other 

G    OT 

•a  "a 


u  ^ 





his  own  house,  paying  his  tax  regularly.  It  required  a  thrifty  disposition 
to  run  a  household  as  large  as  that  of  the  town  musician.  Ambrosius' 
duties  involved  keeping  at  least  two  apprentices  and  two  assistants;  his 
mother-in-law  and  the  half-witted  sister  stayed  with  him  until  they  died;1 
and,  finally,  eight  children  grew  up  in  the  Bach  household.  Among  them 
were  Johann  Christoph  (22),  christened  in  Erfurt  on  June  18,  1671; 
Johann  Jakob  (23),  christened  in  Eisenach  on  February  n,  1682;  and 
finally  Johann  Sebastian  christened  in  Eisenach  on  March  23,  1685.2  It 
is  also  probable  that  yet  another  Johann  Christoph  Bach  (17),  son  of 
Johann  Christian  in  Erfurt,  who  attended  the  Eisenach  Latin  school  in 
1683-84,  stayed  with  the  hospitable  Ambrosius  (cf.  p.  97).  To  provide 
for  all  these  called  for  excellent  management,  and  apparently  both 
Ambrosius  and  Elisabeth  were  much  better  qualified  to  cope  with  such 
problems  than  their  cousins  in  Eisenach,  the  great  Johann  Christoph  and 
his  spouse,  Elisabeth.  It  is  significant  that  while  Johann  Christoph  Bach 
the  organist  kept  going  only  with  the  help  of  loans  and  advances, 
Ambrosius  Bach  the  town  musician  was  well  enough  off  to  give  up  the 
income  derived  from  some  of  the  extra-musical  duties  of  the  Hausmann. 
According  to  an  account  preserved,  more  than  a  quarter  of  Ambrosius' 
salary  was  withheld  by  the  city  fathers,  as  a  deputy  had  to  perform  the 
following  parts  of  the  town  musician's  work:  ringing  the  bell  in  the  bell- 
tower  as  a  time  signal;  ringing  a  certain  bell  intended  to  remind  the  people 

contemporary  documents  that  the  house  was  owned  at  the  time  of  Sebastian's  birth  by 
Heinrich  Borstelmann,  rector  of  the  Latin  school,  while  it  was  in  nearby  Lutherstrasse  35 
that  Ambrosius  and  his  family  lived  in  1685.  A  heated  controversy  raged  between  these 
scholars  on  the  one  side  and  their  opponents,  H.  A.  Winkler  and  C.  Freyse,  curator  of  the 
Bach-Museum;  a  controversy  which  was  ultimately  stopped  by  the  German  Government, 
which  was  anxious  to  preserve  the  attraction  of  the  Bach-Museum  to  tourists.  But  even  if 
the  claims  as  to  the  authenticity  of  the  house  on  'Frauenplan  21'  as  Sebastian's  birthplace 
cannot  be  upheld,  the  Museum  deserves  our  attention.  The  beautiful  house  is  located  in  a 
part  of  Eisenach  where  Ambrosius  actually  lived,  and  as  it  dates  from  the  right  period,  it 
gives  a  good  idea  of  what  Sebastian's  birthplace  may  have  looked  like.  On  the  other  hand, 
the  house  on  Lutherstrasse  is  of  no  interest,  as  nothing  of  the  old  structure  has  been 
preserved.  In  the  last  war  the  Bach-Museum  was  badly  damaged  through  air  attacks,  but 
thanks  to  the  help  of  American  troops,  the  house  was  quickly  restored  with  material  taken 
from  other  contemporary  buildings,  and  the  work  has  been  done  so  skilfully  that  even 
old  friends  of  the  Museum  did  not  notice  any  change  in  it  when  they  visited  it  after  the 
war.  Cf.  the  report  of  the  Curator  Conrad  Freyse  in  BJ,  1940-48. 

1  Eva  Barbara  Lammerhirt  was  buried  in  Eisenach  in  1673;  Dorothea  Maria  Bach  in 

2  The  other  five  children  were  Johann  Balthasar  (1673-91),  Johann  Jonas  (1675-85), 
Maria  Salome  (b.  1677),  Johanna  Juditha  (1680-86),  Johann  Nicolaus  (b.  1683).  The  last 
one  is  not  mentioned  in  the  Eisenach  church  register,  but  Helmbold  found  his  name  in 
the  school  register  and  places  him  between  Johann  Jakob  and  Johann  Sebastian. 

74  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

that  taxes  were  due  on  that  day;  and  the  yearly  safety  inspection  of  fire- 
places. Evidently  Ambrosius  was  so  much  in  demand  for  musical  work 
that  he  could  afford  to  lose  this  not  inconsiderable  amount.  At  times  he 
even  played  at  weddings  in  other  towns;  Cantor  Dedekind  reports,  for 
instance,  that  he  once  performed  at  such  an  occasion  at  Ohrdruf  together 
with  Johann  Pachelbel  and  with  his  kinsman,  Christoph  Hoffmann.1 
From  1677  onward  Ambrosius  also  formed  part  of  the  newly  established 
small  band  of  Prince  Johann  Georg  I,  and  got  a  yearly  honorarium  of 
19  h\,  9  pf.,  plus  a  generous  New  Year's  gift,  which  in  1679,  for  example, 
amounted  to  half  the  salary  paid  by  the  Prince.2 

Taking  all  this  into  account,  Ambrosius  earned  not  more,  perhaps 
even  less,  than  his  cousin.  But  not  only  was  he  a  clever  manager — a  gift 
he  was  to  pass  on  to  his  youngest  son — he  was  more  frugal  in  his  ambi- 
tions. For  instance,  he  did  not  burden  himself  with  a  costly  schooling  for 
his  children,  but  thought  rather  of  their  musical  training.  The  two  sons, 
who  reached  maturity  while  their  father  was  alive,  were  both  apprenticed 
to  musicians  after  they  had  finished  with  the  third  class  of  the  Latin  school. 
It  will  be  remembered  that  Ambrosius'  cousin,  Johann  Christoph, 
thought  differently  in  this  matter.  The  divergences  in  their  outlook  and 
in  their  financial  status  may  have  prevented  the  two  families  from  be- 
coming really  friendly.  It  is  significant  that  neither  of  the  two  Bachs 
appeared  as  godfather  to  the  other's  sons.3  Ambrosius  certainly  had  a 
high  regard  for  his  cousin's  creative  work,  whereas  Johann  Christoph 
may  have  looked  down  on  the  town  musician  as  merely  a  performer.  For 
it  seems  that  Ambrosius'  composing,  if  he  undertook  any  at  all,  was  of 
no  great  importance.  None  of  his  descendants  ever  mentioned  him  as  a 
creative  artist,  and  not  a  line  of  music  by  him  has  been  preserved.  As  he 
started  a  collection  of  compositions  by  other  Bachs — an  enterprise 
eagerly  continued  by  Sebastian — it  seems  unlikely  that  he  would  have 
omitted  his  own  works  had  there  been  any. 

Altogether  Ambrosius  spent  twenty-four  years  in  Eisenach.  When  he 
had  served  there  for  a  dozen  years,  he  seriously  considered  a  change.  In 
Erfurt  Johann  Christian  (7)  and  Johann  Nikolaus  Bach  (9)  died  in  1682 

1  It  may  be  that  the  three  musicians  gathered  to  celebrate  the  wedding  of  Ambrosius' 
eldest  son,  Johann  Christoph,  to  Dorothea  von  Hof,  which  took  place  in  Ohrdruf  in 
October  1694.  Pachelbel  may  have  attended  the  wedding,  as  he  was  the  bridegroom's 

2  Cf.  Weimarer  Archiv,  Eisenacher  Dienersachen  No.  49,  and  Wartburg-Archiv 
(Rechnungen  des  fursdichen  Hauses). 

3  Johann  Christoph  once  acted  as  a  substitute  at  the  christening  of  a  daughter  of 
Ambrosius,  since  the  godfather,  Johann  Pachelbel,  was  detained  in  Erfurt. 


from  the  plague,  and  while  their  brother,  Johann  Egidius  (8)  took  over 
as  director  of  the  band,  the  positions  of  the  two  other  Bachs  had  to  be 
filled.  The  authorities  remembered  Ambrosius  and  invited  him  to  return 
to  Erfurt.1  Ambrosius  felt  very  much  like  accepting;  he  was  ready  for  a 
change,  and  his  wife  may  have  urged  him  too,  as  she  had  many  relatives 
living  in  Erfurt.  First,  however,  his  resignation  had  to  be  accepted  by  his 
Eisenach  superiors.  In  April  1684  he  addressed  a  lengthy  petition  to 
them  in  which  he  brought  forth  all  the  matters  giving  cause  for  complaint, 
mainly  his  bad  financial  status  due  to  numerous  periods  of  public 
mourning,  the  unwillingness  of  many  citizens  to  pay  the  prescribed  rates 
for  wedding  music,  and  the  ever-recurring  difficulties  with  the  'beer 
fiddlers'  (cf.  p.  16)  which  made  him  'quite  impatient  and  vexed.'  An- 
other reason  for  dissatisfaction,  which  Ambrosius  did  not  see  fit  to  men- 
tion in  his  petition,  was  a  cut  in  the  salary  he  received  for  his  services  at 
court.  When  after  nineteen  days  no  answer  came,  he  urged  a  decision  in  a 
second  petition,  emphasizing  his  troubles  with  the  'beer  fiddlers'  who,  ac- 
cording to  regulation,  were  supposed  to  perform  at  weddings  only  with 
the  special  permission  of,  and  on  payment  to,  the  town  musician:  'I  always 
have  arguments  with  them,  as  they  never  care  to  accept  my  arrangements 
if  it  so  happens  that  several  weddings  occur  at  the  same  time;  one  runs 
hither,  the  other  thither,  to  get  the  preference,  and  I  have  nothing  but 
trouble.'  But  poor  Ambrosius  had  no  luck.  The  Eisenach  city  fathers 
were  too  satisfied  with  their  Hausmann  to  grant  him  the  requested  per- 
mission. Instead  they  wrote  to  the  Erfurt  authorities  informing  them  of 
their  determination  to  keep  Ambrosius  in  their  service  and  asking  them 
to  desist  from  further  offers.  Ambrosius  had  to  stay  on  in  Eisenach.  It 
does  not  seem  likely,  however,  that  he  took  his  defeat  too  hardly,  once 
his  first  anger  had  cooled  off.  Somehow  his  complaints  in  the  two  petitions 
do  not  ring  as  true  as  the  repeated  desperate  appeals  of  his  organist  cousin. 
Of  course  he  would  have  liked  to  better  his  position,  but  after  all  he  was 
not  so  badly  off  in  Eisenach;  for  one  thing,  it  had  the  great  advantage  of 
having  been  left  untouched  by  the  plague  that  had  ravaged  Erfurt  in  past 
years.  Moreover  his  work  at  court  became  more  interesting  when  in  1685 
the  versatile  Daniel  Eberlin  again  appeared  in  Eisenach  and  became 
conductor  of  the  princely  band.  The  size  of  the  orchestra  was  increased 
and  performances  took  place  more  frequently.  Thus  the  town  musician 
found  a  greater  amount  of  employment  at  court,  and  Prince  Johann 
Georg  II,  who  took  over  the  government  in  1686,  decided  to  cancel 

1  It  is  quite  possible  that  the  directorship  was  offered  to  Ambrosius,  and  only  given 
to  Egidius  when  Ambrosius  was  unable  to  accept,  but  this  point  cannot  be  decided  as  yet. 

j6  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

the  cut  in  salary  which  his  predecessor  had  seen  fit  to  impose  on 

There  followed  a  pleasant  time  in  the  life  of  the  town  piper.  His 
eldest  son,  Johann  Christoph,  who  had  studied  in  Erfurt  with  the  great 
Johann  Pachelbel  and  subsequently  assisted  his  aged  kinsman,  Heinrich 
Bach,  in  Arnstadt,  was  appointed  organist  in  the  city  of  Ohrdruf,1  a  posi- 
tion he  was  to  hold  throughout  his  life.  Besides  experiencing  the  satis- 
faction of  seeing  the  youth  well  established,  the  father  had  the  joy  of 
discovering  the  unusual  talent  of  his  youngest  child.  Ambrosius  taught 
little  Sebastian  the  violin  and  could  not  fail  to  be  gladdened  by  the  boy's 
response  to  his  teaching. 

Unfortunately  this  happy  family  life  did  not  last  long.  In  August  1693 
Ambrosius  suffered  a  grave  loss,  when  his  beloved  twin  brother,  his 
second  self,  died  in  Arnstadt.  Only  a  few  months  later  yet  another  tragic 
event  occurred  with  the  sudden  death  of  his  dear  wife,  Elisabeth.  While 
still  reeling  from  the  impact  of  these  two  shocks,  the  harassed  widower 
had  to  keep  the  household  going  for  his  young  sons,  his  apprentices  and 
assistants.  As  his  only  daughter  was  just  leaving  home  to  marry  an  Erfurt 
citizen,  and  since  for  people  of  his  social  standing  the  engagement  of  a 
paid  housekeeper  was  out  of  the  question,  there  was  only  one  solution 
open  to  Ambrosius:  he  had  to  marry  again  as  speedily  as  possible.  He 
chose  an  Arnstadt  woman  well  known  to  the  Bach  family,  Barbara 
Margarethe  Keul,  twice  widowed,  who  had  been  married  to  his  cousin, 
Johann  Gimther  (cf.  p.  22).  The  wedding  took  place  in  November  1694, 
half  a  year  after  Elisabeth's  death.  But  though  Ambrosius  valiantly  strove 
to  continue  his  normal  way  of  life,  the  two  losses  he  had  suffered  under- 
mined his  health.  Two  months  after  the  wedding  he  fell  ill;  on  January  31, 
1695,  he  received  Holy  Communion  at  home,  and  on  February  24  he  was 
buried.  The  happenings  of  the  last  months  had  necessitated  much  expendi- 
ture and  there  was  little  money  left  over  for  the  widow  and  orphaned 
children.  Barbara  Margarethe  endeavoured  to  make  the  best  of  a  difficult 
situation.  She  wrote  a  spirited  petition  to  the  Council  in  which  she  cited 
the  case  of  Ambrosius'  twin  brother  in  Arnstadt,  whose  position  had 
been  handled  by  the  widow  with  the  help  of  the  assistants  and  apprentices 
for  eighteen  months,  and  asked  for  the  same  privilege.  In  this  lengthy 

1  The  appointment  may  have  been  secured  through  the  recommendation  of  his 
Arnstadt  uncle,  Johann  Christoph  (12),  whose  wife  came  from  Ohrdruf.  Incidentally  the 
young  organist  was  not  the  first  of  the  name  to  reside  in  Ohrdruf.  The  name  of  Bach  is 
found  among  the  Ohrdruf  citizens  as  early  as  1472.  In  1564  and  1565  two  girls  by  the  name 
of  Bach  from  Wechmar  were  married  in  Ohrdruf;  they  may  well  have  been  sisters  or  aunts 
of  Veit  Bach. 


document  she  claimed  that  the  Count  of  Schwarzburg-Arnstadt  was  most 
anxious  to  employ  a  Bach  again,  but  'as  the  good  Lord  had  apparently- 
dried  up  the  whole  clan  of  Bach  musicians  within  a  few  years,1  the  best 
he  could  do  was  to  engage  the  widow  of  a  Bach.'  Naturally  Sebastian's 
stepmother  could  not  foresee  that  what  seemed  to  her  the  end  was  in  fact 
the  beginning  of  the  most  glorious  phase  in  the  history  of  the  Bach  family. 
Her  pleadings  to  the  Council  were  of  no  avail,  however.  The  Eisenach 
city  fathers,  quickly  forgetting  their  appreciation  of  Ambrosius'  services, 
paid  the  widow  only  what  was  strictly  and  legally  due  to  her,  viz.  the 
salary  for  one-and-a-half  quarters.  They  engaged  Johann  Heinrich  Halle 
from  Gottingen  as  town  musician,  and  Ambrosius'  family  had  to  leave. 
The  widow  returned  to  Arnstadt;  the  elder  son,  Johann  Jakob,  was  to  be 
apprenticed  with  the  new  Hausmann,  and  the  younger  one,  Johann 
Sebastian,  remained  in  the  care  of  his  eldest  brother,  Johann  Christoph, 
organist  at  Ohrdruf. 

1  Actually  the  Count  of  Schwarzburg-Arnstadt  had  lost  in  1692  the  organist, 
Heinrich  Bach;  in  1693  the  town  musician,  Johann  Christoph  Bach  (12);  in  1694  the 
organist  of  Gehren,  Johann  Michael  Bach  (14). 


looking  back  on  the  lives  of  the  Bach  musicians  in  the  first  hundred 
years  of  their  professional  service,  we  find  a  definite  pattern  established. 
Certain  Bach  centres  were  formed  where  the  sons  followed  the  father  in 
office,  and  simultaneously  various  kinsmen  were  attracted  as  reinforce- 
ments. The  largest  group  was  assembled  in  Erfurt,  where  all  three  sons 
of  Johannes  Bach  found  work  at  certain  times,  and  where  many  of  their 
children  were  born.  Arnstadt  was  hardly  less  important;  it  witnessed  the 
activities  of  Heinrich  and  Christoph  Bach,  and  of  several  sons.  In 
Schweinfurt  and  Ohrdruf  too,  Bach  musicians  settled  down,  establishing 
a  tradition  to  be  upheld  through  several  generations.  Most  significant  of 
all,  however,  was  Eisenach.  Here  lived  the  greatest  Bach  composer  of  the 
17th  century  side  by  side  with  the  man  whose  son  was  to  bestow  im- 
mortality on  the  clan. 

After  the  Bachs  had  grown  roots  in  certain  towns  and  become  an 
integral  part  of  each  town's  musical  life,  a  social  rise  took  place.  Instead  of 
living  as  'house-pigeons'  in  the  city  tower,  they  became  house-owners. 
They  took  their  wives  from  higher  social  ranks.  While  the  wife  of 
Johannes  Bach  was  an  innkeeper's  daughter,  and  her  sons,  Johann  and 
Heinrich,  stayed  strictly  within  their  own  sphere  by  marrying  two 
daughters  of  Johann's  master,  the  town  piper  of  Suhl,  Heinrich's  sons 
were  more  ambitious.  Two  of  them  married  daughters  of  an  Arnstadt 
syndic,  the  third  the  daughter  of  the  town's  former  mayor.  Their  cousin, 
Ambrosius,  did  just  as  well  by  choosing  the  daughter  of  an  Erfurt  Council 
member.  It  is  also  significant  that  many  of  the  younger  Bachs  attended  all 
the  classes  of  the  Latin  school,  and  some  aspired  to  the  position  of  a 
learned  Cantor. 

To  achieve  all  this  during  one  of  the  hardest  periods  in  German 
history  required  outstanding  vitality  and  driving  power.  These  the  Bachs 
certainly  possessed,  and  in  addition  they  were  endowed  with  a  deep 
loyalty  to  the  family  which  made  them  give  each  other  unstinted  help  in 
critical  situations.  But  even  if  there  was  no  practical  purpose  involved, 
they  loved  getting  together.  At  that  time  the  family  gatherings  were 
instituted  which  Forkel,  on  information  supplied  by  Emanuel  Bach, 
described  as  follows: 



'As  it  was  impossible  for  them  all  to  live  in  one  place,  they  resolved  at 
least  to  see  each  other  once  a  year  and  fixed  a  certain  day  upon  which  they 
had  all  to  appear  at  an  appointed  place.  Even  after  the  family  had  become 
much  more  numerous  and  first  one  and  then  another  of  the  members  had 
been  obliged  to  settle  outside  Thuringia  .  .  .  they  continued  their  annual 
meetings,  which  generally  took  place  at  Erfurt,  Eisenach,  or  Arnstadt. 
Their  amusements  during  the  time  of  their  meeting  were  entirely  musical. 
As  the  company  consisted  wholly  of  cantors,  organists,  and  town 
musicians  who  had  all  to  do  with  the  Church,  the  first  thing  they  did  .  . . 
was  to  sing  a  chorale.  From  this  pious  commencement  they  proceeded  to 
drolleries  which  often  made  a  very  great  contrast  with  it.  For  now  they 
sang  popular  songs,  the  contents  of  which  were  partly  comic  and  partly 
naughty,  all  together  and  extempore,  but  in  such  a  manner  that  the  several 
parts  thus  extemporized  made  a  kind  of  harmony  together,  the  words, 
however,  in  every  part  being  different.  They  called  this  ...  a  quodlibet, 
and  not  only  laughed  heartily  at  it  themselves,  but  excited  an  equally 
hearty  and  irresistible  laughter  in  everyone  that  heard  them.' 

As  artists  the  first  Bachs  worked  almost  exclusively  for  the  Protestant 
Church.  The  substantial  number  of  motets  they  produced  shows  their 
faithful  adherence  to  the  great  traditions  of  the  past.  Judging  from  the 
works  preserved,  the  realm  of  secular  music  was  hardly  discovered  by 
these  early  masters.  Their  most  daring  advances  into  this  unexplored 
territory  consisted  of  occasional  semi-sacred  cantatas  or  a  set  of  clavier 
variations  on  a  dance  theme.  Real  versatility  was  still  lacking  in  the 

The  Bachs  produced  in  this  period  a  number  of  great  talents.  Johann, 
Heinrich,  Georg  Christoph,  and  particularly  Johann  Michael  were  all 
composers  fully  conversant  with  the  style  and  technical  innovations  of 
the  church  music  in  their  time.  On  a  much  higher  level  stood  the  work  of 
Johann  Christoph  (13),  who  might  be  considered  the  first  genius  of  the 
family.  His  artistic  independence,  his  emotional  fervour,  and  his  genuine 
sense  of  humour  secure  him  a  unique  position  among  the  composers  of 
his  period.  It  is  by  no  means  accidental  that  works  by  Johann  Christoph 
and  by  his  father,  Heinrich  Bach,  were  to  be  found  in  a  collection  of 
choral  music  established  in  Liineburg  some  200  miles  north  of  Thuringia. 

Johann  Sebastian,  a  true  Bach  in  every  respect,  faithfully  and  proudly 
collected  the  works  of  his  forebears.  He  studied  and  performed  them  and, 
as  a  matter  of  course,  he  followed  in  his  own  compositions  the  path  the 
older  Bachs  had  shown  him. 

vni.  Johann  Ambrosius  Bach,  father  of  Sebastian 

ix.  The  house,  n,  Rittergasse  (centre  of  picture),  in  which  J.  Ambrosius  Bach 
lived  during  the  first  three  years  of  his  stay  in  Eisenach 





(1700- 1750) 


a  s  a  result  of  the  Thirty  Years  War  in  Germany,  the  central  government 
had  practically  ceased  to  exist.  The  ruling  family  of  the  Hapsburgs  was 
far  more  concerned  with  increasing  its  private  possessions  than  with  the 
common  good  of  the  Reich;  Swedish  and  French  influences  were  strong 
within  Germany;  and  no  attempt  was  made  to  pursue  a  unified  national 

Instead  of  a  central  government,  more  than  three  hundred  independent 
princes  reigned  in  Germany.  Although  the  domain  of  some  of  them 
measured  no  more  than  a  few  square  miles,  they  considered  themselves 
little  short  of  Caesars.  They  were  absolute  rulers  within  the  borders  of 
their  states,  aping  the  characteristic  maxim  of  their  great  model,  Louis 
XIV,  Vitat,  cest  moi.  Each  of  them  wished  to  build  his  own  Versailles 
and  to  organize  festivities  that  would  emulate  in  magnificence  and  splen- 
dour those  of  the  roi  soleil.  This  attitude  of  absolutism  finds  perfect 
expression  in  the  monument  to  the  Great  Elector  of  Brandenburg  erected 
in  the  first  decade  of  the  18th  century  by  Andreas  Schluter  and  his  pupils. 
In  lonely  grandeur,  like  a  Roman  Emperor,  with  majestically  extended 
arm,  the  Prince  sits  on  his  passive  horse,  while  at  his  feet  four  slaves  are 
shown  writhing  in  their  chains.  For  the  Baroque  observer,  the  figures  of 
these  slaves  were  essential  as  symbols  of  the  sovereign's  unlimited  power. 

The  funds  for  the  traditional  displays  of  lavishness  were  raised  mainly 
by  excessive  taxation  of  the  peasants,  who  formed  more  than  two-thirds 
of  the  population  and  who  were  kept  in  a  condition  little  short  of  slavery. 
Sometimes  even  worse  methods  were  employed  to  fill  the  empty 
treasuries.  The  landgrave  of  Hesse  and  other  German  princes  made 
millions  of  thalers  by  selling  their  subjects  to  the  British  and  Dutch  who 
needed  soldiers  for  their  foreign  wars.  In  America,  too,  German  merce- 
naries were  employed  in  an  attempt  to  suppress  the  United  Colonies' 
movement  towards  independence.  The  princes  considered  themselves 
particularly  fortunate  if  these  men  were  killed  in  action,  since  an  extra 
premium  was  paid  for  those  who  failed  to  return. 

Not  only  the  sovereign  but  the  common  man,  too,  was  desirous  of 
being  seen  in  oversized  dimensions.  The  successful  merchant  and  burgher 
tried  to  compete  in  lavishness  with  the  Prince.  In  Munich,  two  artists — 


84  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

the  brothers  Cosmas  and  Egid  Asam — built  a  church  next  to  their  resi- 
dence almost  entirely  at  their  own  expense;  it  was  small  in  dimensions,  but 
as  resplendent  as  a  cathedral  in  its  display  of  magnificent  pictures  and 
gilded  statues.  The  rich  decorated  the  walls  of  their  houses  with  paintings 
simulating  vistas  of  wide  colonnades  and  formal  gardens;  while  clouds 
painted  on  the  ceilings  of  ballrooms  and  even  vestibules  seemed  to  lead 
the  glance  right  into  heaven.  The  formal,  full-bottomed  wig  with  curls 
which  men  were  pleased  to  wear,  and  the  pompous  crinoline  of  the 
women  were  intended  to  add  dignity  to  the  wearers. 

Particularism  flourished  in  the  Christian  Church  too.  Besides  being 
subjected  to  merciless  attacks  from  the  ranks  of  freethinkers,  the  Church 
was  also  divided  within  itself.  Catholicism,  tenaciously  struggling  to 
regain  the  territory  it  lost  during  the  Reformation,  was  confronted  by  a 
divided  force  of  Lutherans  and  Calvinists,  whose  members  attacked  each 
other  with  the  same  bitterness  as  they  displayed  in  their  fight  against  the 
Pope.  A  deep  cleavage  of  opinion  separated  even  the  members  of  the 
Lutheran  faith.  While  the  Orthodox  group  adhered  with  stubborn  and 
narrow-minded  bigotry  to  the  letter  of  the  Word,  and  refused  to  admit  the 
slightest  deviation  from  petrified  traditions,  the  'Pietists'  claimed  the 
rights  of  the  heart  and  the  necessity  for  an  individual  approach  to  the 
faith.  As  in  other  doctrinal  feuds,  the  strife  between  the  two  factions  was 
conducted  with  the  utmost  violence  and  no  mercy  from  either  side  was 
asked  or  granted. 

It  cannot  surprise  us  that  the  detrimental  effects  and  dangers  of  such 
excessive  particularism  were  keenly  felt,  and  that  everywhere  the  best 
thinkers  were  striving  to  counteract  it.  In  the  field  of  religion,  attempts 
were  made  to  reconcile  the  Calvinistic  and  Lutheran  Churches,  and  to 
unite  them  in  a  new  'Evangelical-Apostolic'  creed.  Some  wise  men  even 
tried  to  regard  Catholics  and  Protestants  not  as  enemies  engaged  in  a 
deadly  struggle,  but  rather  as  brothers  able  to  reconcile  their  disagree- 
ments. Karl  Ludwig,  the  Calvinist  Elector  of  the  Palatinate,  built  in  Mann- 
heim the  famous  'Peace  Church,'  to  be  used  by  all  three  creeds,  Catholics, 
Lutherans,  and  Calvinists  alike.  Although  none  of  these  endeavours  met 
with  any  tangible  success,  they  were  nevertheless  of  vital  significance, 
since  they  paved  the  way  for  the  idea  of  religious  tolerance  which  was  to 
become  of  fundamental  importance  in  the  second  half  of  the  century. 
Whereas  in  the  16th  century  each  religious  party  had  attempted  to  force 
its  ideas  on  the  others,  towards  the  end  of  the  17th  it  was  gradually 
realized  that  each  faction  would  have  to  make  concessions  in  order  to 
reach  a  reconciliation  of  the  different  points  of  view.  When  agreement 


seemed  to  be  impossible,  even  on  this  basis,  the  best  minds  of  the  18th 
century  came  to  the  conclusion  that  it  was  the  duty  of  the  different  de- 
nominations to  preserve  their  idiosyncrasies,  while  respecting  and 
tolerating  those  of  other  religious  sects. 

The  existence  of  similar  urges  towards  unification  may  be  detected  in 
the  fields  of  political  and  philosophical  thought.  Leibniz,  the  greatest 
German  thinker  at  the  close  of  the  17th  century,  dreamed  of  a  sign  lan- 
guage, on  an  algebraic  basis,  which  would  enable  all  nations  to  under- 
stand each  other.  This  Utopian  idea  took  a  practical  turn  in  the  founding 
of  academies  in  Berlin,  and  later  also  in  St.  Petersburg,  with  the  object  of 
promoting  the  study  and  knowledge  of  science,  and  with  it  a  mutual 
understanding  between  nations.  The  new  academies  were  based  on  the 
conviction  that  human  society  can  be  better  served  by  co-operation  and 
mutual  help  than  by  individual  efforts. 

Leibniz's  philosophy,  which  was  of  the  greatest  importance  to  the 
spiritual  life  of  the  18th  century,  was  a  monumental  attempt  to  view  the 
universe  as  a  harmonious  structure,  governed  in  all  its  aspects  by  identical 
laws.  According  to  his  ideas,  'monads'  are  the  constituent  elements  of  all 
things.  They  are  not  dead  objects,  but  living  forces,  imbued  with  a 
tendency  to  act.  Every  'monad'  is  a  microcosm,  reflecting  in  'pre- 
established  harmony'  the  ideas  of  the  universe,  although  with  immensely 
varying  degrees  of  perfection.  The  lowest  monads,  such  as  those  contained 
in  metals  and  stones,  have  only  dim  and  vague  notions,  while  the  most 
exalted  monad,  God,  is  endowed  with  completely  distinct  and  lucid 
perceptions.  Man  stands  somewhere  in  the  middle  of  this  ladder;  his  im- 
perfect senses  place  him  among  the  lower  monads,  but  his  reasoning  mind 
advances  him  towards  the  highest  one.  Thus  Leibniz  succeeded  in  creating 
a  cosmology  into  which  every  element,  even  the  least  significant,  fits 

In  the  fine  arts  a  certain  co-ordination  of  styles  was  also  achieved, 
although  not  by  conscious  effort.  It  was  rather  the  consequence  of  condi- 
tions altogether  hostile  to  the  arts.  As  a  result  of  the  Thirty  Years  War 
there  existed  a  kind  of  artistic  vacuum  in  Germany,  until  the  need  for  new 
forms  and  ideas  was  satisfied  by  the  neighbouring  countries.  The  Catholic 
South  of  Germany,  and  in  particular  Austria,  was  stimulated  by  Italian 
architecture  and  painting;  and  in  the  North  the  strict  Dutch  style  in- 
fluenced sculpture  and  architecture.  Finally,  during  the  18th  century, 
French  forms,  penetrating  the  whole  of  Central  Europe  from  the  West, 
invaded  every  type  of  art.  Thus  Germany  became  a  meeting-ground  for 
the  artistic  products  of  different  nations. 

86  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

In  the  field  of  music  a  movement  towards  unification  was  as  much  in 
evidence  as  it  was  in  any  other  branch  of  spiritual  life.  In  distinction  to  the 
fine  arts,  the  bond  connecting  the  16th  and  17th  centuries  had  never  been 
completely  severed.  The  German  Renaissance  tradition  of  a  sturdy  poly- 
phonic texture  was  carried  over  into  the  Baroque  period,  and  the  develop- 
ment of  an  interesting  harmonic  basis  added  substance  and  solidity  to  the 
contrapuntal  structure.  To  these  specifically  Central  European  character- 
istics there  were  added  numerous  other  features,  which  had  been  imported 
both  from  the  South  and  West.  Italy  contributed  the  sensual  charm  and 
dramatic  power  of  its  melodies,  the  great  art  oibel  canto  and  of  singing  on 
stringed  instruments,  and  the  stile  concertato  with  its  competitive  employ- 
ment of  choruses  of  diverse  character.  It  also  gave  German  music  the 
concerto,  with  one  or  more  solo  instruments,  and  the  'trio  sonata'  for 
two  melody  instruments  and  figured  bass.  France  furnished  the  technique 
of  training  and  equipping  an  orchestra,  as  well  as  the  form  of  the  'over- 
ture,' consisting  of  a  slow  introduction,  a  substantial  fast  fugue,  and  a 
deliberate  epilogue.  She  also  provided  impressive  achievements  in  the 
field  of  harpsichord  composition,  the  form  of  the  dance  suite,  and  the 
idea  of  programme  music.  There  were  composers  in  Germany,  such  as 
Christoph  Graupner,  who  followed  Italian  models;  others,  like  J.  K. 
Ferdinand  Fischer,  came  under  the  influence  of  French  forms;  a  third 
group  headed  by  the  great  organist,  Johann  Pachelbel,  tried  to  achieve 
artistic  unity  within  Germany  itself  by  introducing  the  South-German 
virtuosity  into  the  Northern  part  of  the  Reich.  Of  even  greater  significance 
was  the  contribution  of  those  men  who  felt  the  need  for  a  fusion  of 
Western,  Southern,  and  Central  European  music.  The  Austrian  Georg 
Muffat,  for  instance,  studied  first  in  Paris  with  Lully  and  later  in  Rome 
with  Corelli.  The  results  of  this  diversified  instruction  can  easily  be 
detected  in  MufFat's  orchestra  suites,  his  concern  grossi  and  trio  sonatas. 
Other  composers  too,  like  Johann  Friedrich  Fasch  and  the  versatile  Georg 
Philipp  Telemann,  were  equally  at  home  in  the  national  styles  of  the 
West  and  the  South.  However,  it  must  be  strongly  emphasized  that  these 
men  never  imitated  their  models  mechanically.  By  a  slow  process  of  assi- 
milation, and  always  conscious  of  their  own  polyphonic  and  harmonic 
heritage,  German  composers  gradually  evolved  the  strongly  unified  style 
that  is  characteristic  of  the  'late  Baroque'  era  (1700-1750)  in  their  country. 

The  Bach  family,  whose  home  lay  in  the  very  heart  of  Germany, 
played  an  important  part  in  this  movement.  Its  central  offspring,  Johann 
Sebastian,  became  the  greatest  force  in  this  struggle  to  achieve  musical 


Johannes  (2) 

Christoph  (5)  Heinrich  (6) 

1613-61  1615-92 


J.  Ambrosius  (11) 

J.  Christoph  (i3)«=El.  Wedemann     J.  Michael  (i4)  =  Cath.  Wedemann 

1 642- 1 703 

1 646- 1 703  1648-94 


J.  Sebastian  (24) 


J.  Nicolaus  (27)      J.  Christoph  (28)      J.  Friedrich  (29)  Maria  Barbara 

1669-1753  1676-?  1682-1730  1684-1720 

it  will  be  remembered  that  the  sons  of  the  great  Johann  Christoph  (13) 
were  given  a  good  education,  and  that  the  eldest,  Johann  Nicolaus  (27),1 
christened  October  17,  1669,  even  had  the  opportunity  of  attending  the 
University  of  Jena  after  leaving  the  Eisenach  Latin  school  in  1689.  This 
was  a  luxury  which  Johann  Christoph,  constantly  harassed  by  financial 
worries,  could  ill  afford,  but  somehow  he  managed  it.  Possibly  some  help 
was  given  by  the  Jena  organist,  Johann  Magnus  Kniipfer,2  who  had  been 
Johann  Christoph's  pupil  and  may  have  been  glad  to  have  young  Nicolaus 
to  help  him  in  the  discharge  of  his  duties.  Although  poverty  must  have 
excluded  the  youth  from  most  of  the  students'  favourite  pastimes,  it  was 
still  a  wise  move  for  him  to  go  to  Jena.  The  talented  and  versatile  musician 
quickly  made  friends,  and  he  was  so  well  thought  of  that  in  1695  he  was 
given  the  position  of  town  organist  and  music  teacher  at  the  University. 
By  the  time  Nicolaus,  at  the  age  of  26,  received  his  permanent  appoint- 

1  He  acquired  the  name  of  Nicolaus,  rather  infrequently  chosen  among  the  Bachs, 
from  his  godfather,  the  court  organist,  Nicolaus  Kerner,  of  Gotha.  Another  godfather  was 
his  kinsman,  Johann  Christoph  Hoffmann  from  Suhl  (cf.  p.  64). 

2  Kniipfer  was  the  son  of  Sebastian  Kniipfer,  Thomas  Cantor  at  Leipzig  from  1657  to 
1676.  The  fact  that  the  Thomas  Cantor  sent  his  son  to  Eisenach  for  his  musical  training 
proves  the  high  esteem  enjoyed  by  Johann  Christoph  Bach.  Cf.  H.  A.  Winkler,  'Neues 
uber  den  Jenaer  Bach,'  in  'Jenaische  Zeitung,'  1933. 


88  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

ment,  he  had  seen  much  more  of  the  world  than  his  father  had.  An  oppor- 
tunity rare  indeed  among  the  Bachs  had  come  his  way  when  a  young 
friend,  Georg  v.  Bertuch  (incidentally,  a  student  of  Daniel  Eberlin,  the 
former  Eisenach  conductor),  had  invited  him  to  travel  to  Italy.  Bertuch 
had  been  forced  to  give  up  his  plan  just  when  they  arrived  at  the  Italian 
border,  but  Nicolaus  had  continued.  Many  benefits  were  derived  from 
this  experience,  one  of  them  a  mastery  of  the  Italian  language,  which  is 
apparent  in  an  album-leaf1  Nicolaus  wrote  at  the  age  of  75  in  remarkably 
clear  handwriting.  Yet,  in  spite  of  all  the  beauties  he  had  seen  in  Italy,  he 
found  Jena  a  good  place  to  live  in. 

The  town's  site  was  considered  an  extremely  salubrious  one,  and  an 
enthusiastic  visitor  had  gone  so  far  as  to  compare  its  'fresh  air,  good  water, 
high  mountains,  shady  forests,  gay  fields,  and  merry  vineyards'  to  Para- 
dise. And  even  if  Jena's  natural  attractions  may  with  equal  justice  be 
attributed  to  lovely  Eisenach,  the  mental  atmosphere  in  the  University 
town  was  certainly  much  more  stimulating.  In  the  later  decades  of  the 
17th  century  science  began  to  assume  an  important  role  in  the  University, 
and  gradually  to  change  its  entire  outlook.  When  Nicolaus  Bach  came  to 
Jena,  the  most  conspicuous  personality  there  was  the  mathematician  and 
astronomer,  Erhard  Weigel,  whose  reputation  was  so  great  that  it  made 
young  Leibniz  move  from  Leipzig  to  Jena  for  his  studies.  The  house  that 
Weigel  built  was  a  source  of  incredulous  astonishment  to  every  visitor  to 
Jena.  Nicolaus  Bach,  who  was  himself  tremendously  interested  in  technical 
inventions,  must  have  loved  being  carried  upstairs  by  block-and-tackle, 
seeing  water  pumped  up  by  a  hydraulic  engine  to  all  the  storeys  of  the 
unusually  high  building  (something  like  a  17th-century  skyscraper),  and 
most  of  all,  watching  the  Professor's  ingenious  'Cellar-maid'  at  work.  By 
this  device,  when  water  was  poured  into  a  funnel  in  the  living-room  and 
a  nearby  faucet  was  opened,  real  wine  came  tumbling  out,  brought  right 
up  from  the  cool  cellar.  Not  only  in  science,  but  also  in  various  other 
domains  of  knowledge  there  was  much  activity  to  be  observed  in  Jena; 
and  it  is  significant  that  the  tiny  town  boasted  no  less  than  nine  printing 
firms  and  eight  book-stores.  The  exceeding  roughness  of  the  students' 
manners  was  probably  accepted  as  a  matter  of  course  by  the  organist. 
Being  a  Bach,  for  whom  belligerency  was  something  like  a  clan-attribute, 
he  may  even  have  enjoyed  the  ever-recurring  fights  and  duels  between 
students.  Rowdiness  also  prevailed  in  the  'Collegium  Musicum,'  a 
students'  organization  for  the  performance  of  music  which  flourished  in 
Jena  from  the  time  of  the  16th  century.  On  one  occasion  tempers  rose  so 

1  Preserved  in  the  Manfred  Gorke  Collection,  now  in  Leipzig. 


high  that  a  horn  and  a  viol  were  broken  on  the  body  of  the  director.1  If 
this  incident  occurred  during  the  conductorship  of  Nicolaus  Bach,  he 
probably  gave  back  as  much  as  he  received.  It  is  also  unlikely  that  he 
minded  the  general  heavy  drinking,  a  custom  sanctioned  even  by  the 
medicos,  who  pronounced  that  'the  city's  dry  air  made  imperative  a 
constant  humectation  of  the  throat.' 

A  few  years  after  receiving  his  appointment,  Nicolaus  had  the  chance 
of  a  change  in  his  work.  Both  his  father  and  his  mother  died  in  1703  and 
Nicolaus,  as  the  eldest  son,  was  anxious  to  help  his  younger  brothers, 
especially  Johann  Christoph  (28).  His  father  had  wanted  the  latter  to  suc- 
ceed him  as  Eisenach's  city  organist,  but  as  Johann  Christoph  was  then 
in  Liibeck,  probably  to  hear  Buxtehude,  just  as  his  cousin  Sebastian  was 
to  do  two  years  later,  Nicolaus  made  the  application  on  his  brother's 
behalf.  He  informed  the  authorities  that  Johann  Christoph  was  hastening 
back  to  Eisenach  to  give  a  trial  performance,  and  stressed  the  importance 
of  having  the  work  on  the  organ  of  St.  George's  Church,  in  which  his 
father  had  been  so  deeply  concerned  (cf.  p.  36),  concluded  under  the 
supervision  of  a  member  of  the  family.  If  the  city  fathers  found  young 
Johann  Christoph  too  inexperienced,  he,  Nicolaus,  would  be  glad  to  work 
for  the  time  being  until  the  authorities  considered  the  young  man  ready 
to  assume  the  duties  of  the  appointment.2  In  a  second  petition  Nicolaus 
mentioned  that  Prince  Johann  Wilhelm  of  Eisenach  was  favourable  to 
this  suggestion.  But  it  was  all  to  no  avail.  The  City  Council  was  definitely 
not  interested  in  the  former  organist's  young  namesake,  and  offered  the 
position  to  Nicolaus  himself,  who  had  proved  his  ability  at  Jena  and, 
incidentally,  given  an  excellent  trial  performance  in  Eisenach.  Nicolaus 
declined,  however,  feeling  averse  to  leaving  the  University  town, 
especially  as  he  was  just  trying  to  induce  the  city  authorities  to  build  a 
new  organ.  In  this  he  followed  closely  in  his  father's  footsteps.  Not  only 
did  he  recommend  the  organ  builder,  Georg  Christoph  Stertzing,  who 
had  been  employed  for  Eisenach's  Georgenkirche,  but  he  also  urged  the 
Council,  in  spite  of  low  funds  in  the  treasury,  to  plan  a  first-rate  instru- 
ment. He  felt  sure  the  citizens  would  welcome  the  ambitious  project  as  a 
means  of  expressing  their  gratitude  for  the  privilege  of  living  in  Jena.  'It 
is  hardly  conceivable,'  he  wrote,  'that  infectious  diseases  may  spread  in 

1  Cf.  Fritz  Stein  in  'Die  Musik,'  1912. 

2  The  application  is  somewhat  vague  at  this  point,  probably  on  purpose.  Rollberg  in 
'Jenaische  Zeitung,'  1933,  assumes  from  it  that  Nicolaus  was  willing  to  resign  in  Jena.  It 
seems  more  likely,  however,  that  he  planned  to  engage  a  substitute  in  Jena  who  would 
do  his  work  until  he  could  entrust  the  work  in  Eisenach  to  his  brother. 

90  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

this  city;  one  knows  of  no  real  war  trouble  here;  good  food,  easily  obtain- 
able, is  not  lacking;  and  who  could  enumerate  all  the  benefits  which  God 
hath  granted  this  town  above  others.'  Nicolaus  was  as  persuasive  as  his 
father  had  been  for  a  similar  purpose.  An  outstanding  organ  of  44  voices 
with  3  manuals  and  pedal  was  erected  which  was  to  serve  Jena  up  to  the 
20th  century,  and  Nicolaus  could  proudly  claim  in  1708  that  'many 
organists  came  to  Jena  merely  for  the  organ's  sake,  and  left  the  town  quite 
contented  and  with  amazement.' 

The  city  organist's  consummate  skill  in  everything  pertaining  to  the 
organ  made  the  University  authorities  invite  him  subsequently  to  take 
charge  of  their  own  Kollegienkirche  too.  The  instruction  of  the  University, 
dated  December  12,  171 9,  is  preserved,  and  we  see  that  Nicolaus  was  to 
play  the  organ  on  Sundays  and  holidays  in  the  mornings  and  afternoons, 
as  well  as  at  actibus  academicis;  that  he  was  expected  to  produce  'fine 
music'  on  high  feast-days  and  other  occasions  of  thanksgiving,  and  to 
tune  his  instrument  and  attend  to  minor  repairs. 

Nicolaus  carried  out  all  these  duties  in  both  churches  up  to  the  age  of 
80,  when,  after  an  illness,  he  was  forced  to  look  for  a  substitute.  Un- 
fortunately he  was  not  destined  to  see  one  of  his  sons  take  over  his  work. 
In  decided  contrast  to  his  own  robust  health,  his  offspring  showed  a  sad 
lack  of  vitality  and  resiliency.  Of  the  six  children  from  his  first  marriage, 
contracted  in  1697,  only  a  single  daughter  survived  early  infancy,  and  she 
too  died  unmarried  a  few  years  before  her  father.  The  four  children  which 
a  second  wife  bore  him  were  healthier;  but  there  was  only  one  son  among 
them  and  he  died  at  the  age  of  21  as  a  student  of  philosophy.  Nor  was 
Nicolaus  granted  the  joy  of  seeing  one  of  his  grandchildren  grow  into  a 
musician  likely  to  continue  the  family  tradition.  None  of  his  daughters 
married  young,  and  the  only  wedding  in  the  family  that  he  witnessed  took 
place  three  weeks  before  his  death.  So  Nicolaus  chose  as  his  substitute  a 
certain  Johann  Heinrich  Moller,a  student  of  theology,  who  helped  him  for 
five  years  and,  on  the  organist's  death  in  1754,  became  Bach's  successor; 
whereupon  he  conformed  to  tradition  by  marrying  in  1757  his  prede- 
cessor's youngest  daughter.  But  this  couple,  too,  was  not  destined  to 
carry  on  the  Bach  heritage.  Their  first  son  died  as  an  infant;  the  mother 
passed  on  while  giving  birth  to  a  second  son;  and  the  latter  was  run  over 
and  fatally  injured  by  a  carriage  at  the  age  of  six.  Another  of  Nicolaus' 
daughters  became  a  widow  after  five  weeks  of  married  life,  and  the  third 
had  only  one  daughter,  who  died  unwedded  at  the  age  of  32.  Thus  there 
was  no  progeny  to  inherit  the  vigour  and  versatility  of  the  'Jena  Bach.' 

If  Nicolaus'  private  life  was  full  of  sorrow  and  disappointment,  he 


found  an  antidote  in  ceaseless  industry  in  the  most  variegated  fields. 
Apart  from  his  work  in  the  two  Jena  churches  and  his  participation  in  the 
'Collegium  Musicum,'  Nicolaus  devoted  much  time  to  teaching,  for 
which,  like  his  cousin  Sebastian,  he  seems  to  have  had  a  definite  bent. 
Many  young  musicians  came  to  Jena  to  study  with  him,  among  them  the 
writer  and  organist,  Jakob  Adlung,  and  the  lutanist,  Ernst  Gottlieb  Baron. 
Bach  was  also  most  successful  as  a  craftsman.  Like  his  uncle,  Johann 
Michael  (14),  by  whom  he  had  probably  been  trained,  he  was  greatly 
interested  and  very  proficient  in  the  construction  of  musical  instruments, 
delighting  in  planning  various  improvements.  The  harpsichords  which 
he  constructed  were  equipped  with  a  special  device  invented  by  him. 
This  enabled  the  player  to  select  and  combine  the  various  registers  by 
simply  sliding  the  keyboard  forwards  or  backwards,  instead  of  using  the 
traditional  stop-buttons.  Adlung  seemed  to  think  very  highly  of  this 
invention,  since  he  described  it  in  great  detail  in  his  'Musica  Mechanica 
Organoedi.'1  Nicolaus  Bach  was  also  famous  for  his  Lautenwerk,  which  was 
meant  to  revive  the  diminishing  interest  in  the  lute  by  providing  the 
instrument  with  a  keyboard.  The  result  was  a  kind  of  harpsichord  using 
gut-strings  of  a  length  equal  to  those  found  on  a  lute.  Nicolaus  also  added 
a  lower  register,  so  that  his  Lautenwerk  included  the  compasses  of  the 
larger  theorbo.  When  the  inventor  played  this  instrument,  he  'deceived,' 
according  to  Adlung,  'the  best  lutanist;  and  as  long  as  this  man  did  not 
see  the  Lautenwerk,  he  would  have  taken  his  oath  that  it  was  an  ordinary 
lute.'2  The  scholar  further  states  that  Nicolaus'  Lautenwerk  and  his  harpsi- 
chords were  both  easy  to  play  .  .  .  and  accordingly,  quite  substantial 
amounts  of  money  were  paid  for  them.  'Herr  Bach  was  given  60  Reichs- 
thalers  for  one  with  three  manuals  (a  terrific  amount  considering  the 
prices  which  are  paid  to-day!).'  When  in  1706  the  new  organ  was  built 
in  the  Stadtkirche,  Nicolaus  supervised  the  construction  'down  to  the 
minutest  detail.'3  He  also  invented  little  gadgets  such  as  a  counterweight 
filled  with  sand  to  facilitate  the  action  of  the  organ  bellows.  In  order  to 
improve  the  tone  of  organs  he  developed  a  stopped  pipe  ending  in  a  long 
cylinder  that  could  be  inserted  more  or  less  deeply  into  the  pipe,  thus 
changing  its  pitch.  By  marking  on  this  cylinder  the  intervals  of  the 
tempered  scale,  Nicolaus  hoped  to  have  designed  a  reliable  tool  for  the 
tuning  of  organs.  However,  he  did  not  carry  his  theoretical  speculations 
too  far.  When  Johann  Georg  Neidhardt,  the  champion  of  the  Vell- 

1  Berlin,  1768,  II,  pp.  108-9. 

2  'Musica  Mechanica  Organoedi,'  II,  p.  137. 

3  Adlung,  ibid.,  I,  pp.  244-5. 

92  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

tempered'  system,  offered  to  tune  a  register  of  stopped  organ  pipes  with 
the  help  of  a  monochord  (an  acoustical  instrument  with  a  single  string), 
Nicolaus  challenged  this  method  by  tuning  on  the  same  organ  a  set  of 
stopped  pipes  solely  by  ear.  He  was  very  pleased  indeed  when  the  result 
of  his  work  sounded  much  better  than  that  of  the  learned  scholar.1 

Nicolaus'  brother,  Johann  Friedrich  (29),  was  21  when  his  parents 
died.  He  thereupon  left  the  Latin  school;  he  had  been  attending  the  first 
class,  apparently  with  fine  success,  as  the  school  authorities  praised  his 
ingenium  bonum  (good  intellect).  It  seems  likely  that  Nicolaus  took 
care  of  him,  having  him  attend  the  University  of  Jena  and  giving  him 
musical  instruction,  and  in  return  Friedrich  helped  the  elder  brother  in 
his  various  duties.  Anyway  it  was  as  a  studiosus  that  Friedrich  was 
described  to  the  City  Council  of  Miihlhausen,  when  Johann  Sebastian 
Bach  suggested  that  his  cousin  should  succeed  him  in  the  position  of 
organist  at  St.  Blasius,  which  he  was  giving  up  in  order  to  move  to 
Weimar.  Sebastian's  recommendation  had  great  influence  with  the  city 
fathers.  Moreover,  Friedrich  Bach  was  on  his  mother's  side  related  with 
Councillor  Bellstedt,2  who  had  also  been  instrumental  in  securing  Sebas- 
tian Bach's  services.  Thus  studiosus  Bach  received  the  appointment, 
although  at  a  lower  salary  than  his  cousin,  and  for  twenty-two  years,  up  to 
his  death  in  1730,  he  remained  at  his  post  in  St.  Blasius.  Very  little  is 
known  about  his  activities  there;  we  only  have  a  report  that  he,  like  his 
brother  and  his  father,  took  a  great  interest  in  the  reconstruction  of  an 
organ  which  was  carried  outunder  his  direction.  We  may  assume  that  hegot 
on  well  with  his  superiors,  for  we  find  in  the  contemporary  files  no  mention 
of  any  differences,  such  as  those  the  Eisenach  archives  preserve  in 
great  numbers  with  regard  to  Friedrich's  father.  The  lack  of  any  evidence 
in  the  matter  seems  to  disprove  the  report  perpetuated  in  Gerber's 
Dictionary  that  Johann  Friedrich  Bach  wasted  his  great  talent  through  his 
predilection  for  drinking,  which  eventually  made  him  unable  to  discharge 
his  duties  in  a  sober  state.  Johann  Nikolaus  Gerber  claims  to  have  heard 
this  tale  from  his  father,  who  as  a  youth  had  attended  the  Latin  school  at 
Miihlhausen  and  met  Friedrich  Bach  there,  learning  much  about  the  organ 
from  him.  Probably  the  older  Gerber's  memory  was  not  quite  reliable  on 
this  point;  for  we  cannot  imagine  that  the  Miihlhausen  Council,  which 

1  Adlung,  'Anleitung  zur  Musikalischen  Gelehrsamkeit,'  Erfurt,  1758,  p.  311. 

2  A  brother  of  Councillor  Bellstedt  was  city  clerk  in  Arnstadt  and  married  to  a 
Wedemann  girl.  Friedrich's  mother  was  also  born  a  Wedemann,  and  so  was  Maria 
Barbara  Bach's  mother.  Thus  Friedrich  Bach  was  both  on  his  father's  and  his  mother's 
side  a  cousin  of  Maria  Barbara  Bach. 


always  showed  itself  to  be  most  exacting,  should  have  tolerated  a  drunken 
church  employee  for  twenty-two  years,  and  that  not  a  single  reprimand  of 
the  organist  should  be  recorded  in  the  city  archives.1 

Friedrich  married  late  in  life,  at  the  age  of  40.  When  his  wife  died  four 
years  later,  he  concluded  a  second  union;  but  neither  marriage  produced 
any  offspring.  Thus,  not  through  this  son  either  was  the  heritage  from  the 
great  Johann  Christoph  destined  to  be  handed  on  to  the  later  generations. 

That  he  was  a  composer  worthy  of  the  name  of  Bach  seems  to  be 
revealed  by  an  organ  fugue  in  g,  which  Max  Seiffert  found  in  a  manu- 
script of  organ  fugues  by  various  masters  handed  down  by  the  Leipzig 
organist,  Johann  Andreas  Drobs.2  Seiffert  characterizes  Friedrich's  fugue 
as  one  of  the  best  pieces  written  by  any  Bach  before  Sebastian.  The 
author  has  failed  to  trace  this  composition,  or  any  other  work  by  the 
Miihlhausen  organist,  and  was  thus  unable  to  pierce  the  darkness 
surrounding  the  creative  work  of  Johann  Friedrich  Bach. 


Friedrich's  brother,  Nicolaus,  was  no  less  versatile  as  a  composer  than 
he  was  as  a  craftsman.  Although  only  a  few  of  his  works  have  been  pre- 
served, they  reveal  an  artistic  personality  worthy  of  his  great  father.  There 
is  but  little  that  can  be  said  about  his  activities  as  an  instrumental  com- 
poser. Adlung  mentions  that  he  wrote  'several  suites,'  but  none  of  them 
has  so  far  come  to  light.  A  brief  bicinium  (two-part  composition)  for  the 
organ  on  Nun  freut  euch,  lieben  Christen  G'mein  (Now  rejoice,  dear 
Christian  community)  is  influenced  by  similar  works  by  Johann  Pachelbel. 
Greater  importance,  however,  attaches  to  a  Kyrie  and  Gloria,  a.  short  Mass 
as  it  may  be  called,  which  was  probably  written  in  1716,3  for  two  violins, 

1  Cf.  Georg  Thiele,  'Die  Familie  Bach  in  Miihlhausen,'  Miihlhausen,  1921. 

2  Cf.  BJ,  1907. 

3  A  manuscript  of  the  work  (which  was  in  1939  in  the  possession  of  Breitkopf  & 
Hartel,  Leipzig)  is  dated  'Meiningen,  September  16,  1716.'  Neither  Spitta's  theory 
{I.e.,  I,  p.  130)  that  it  may  have  been  written  by  Johann  Ludwig  Bach,  nor  the  assumption  of 
the  catalogue  of  the  archives  of  Breitkopf  &  Hartel  (Leipzig,  1925,  p.  2,  No.  8)  that  it  is  a 
manuscript  by  Sebastian  Bach,  can  be  upheld.  The  handwriting  shows  strong  similarities 
to  that  of  Nicolaus'  Italian  album-leaf  (cf.  p.  88)  and  it  seems  likely,  therefore,  that  it 
represents  an  autograph  by  the  Jena  composer  (cf.  Winkler,  I.e.).  Perhaps  Nicolaus  had 
come  to  Meiningen  to  deliver  an  instrument  of  his  construction  and  gave  the  score  of  the 
Mass  to  his  kinsman,  Johann  Ludwig  Bach,  on  this  occasion.  A  second  manuscript  of  the 
Mass  has  the  date  1734;  apparently  the  copy  was  written  in  this  year. 

94  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

two  violas,  mixed  chorus,  basses,  and  continuo.  This  composition 
clearly  reveals  the  influence  that  the  trip  to  Italy  had  exercised  on  Nicolaus. 
The  treatment  of  the  voices  and  instruments,  the  melodic  lines,  particu- 
larly in  the  Christe  eleison,  the  brief  fugue  of  the  second  Kyrie  leading 
after  a  short  development  to  a  completely  homophonic  section:  these  can 
easily  be  traced  to  North  Italian  melodies  and  particularly  to  sacred  music 
by  Caldara  and  Lotti.  Nevertheless  Nicolaus'  work,  using  as  its  text  two 
sections  from  the  Ordinary  of  the  Latin  Mass,  fits  perfectly  into  the 
spirit  and  the  liturgy  of  the  German  Lutheran  Church.  The  composer 
deals  with  the  Gloria  as  though  it  were  a  chorale  motet,  employing  as  a 
cantus  firmus  in  long  notes  the  melody  of  the  hymn  Allein  Gott  in  der 
HoK  (To  God  alone  on  High  be  praise),  which  in  the  Protestant  liturgy 
replaces  the  Gloria  of  the  Mass.  Thus  he  combines  in  a  single  composition 
both  the  Protestant  and  Catholic  versions  of  the  same  text.  Such  a  pro- 
cedure was  not  unusual  in  the  Bach  family.  Sebastian  himself  in  his  short 
Mass  in  F  employs  the  hymn  Christe,  du  Lamm  Gottes  (Christ,  Thou 
Lamb  of  God)  as  a  cantus  firmus;  and  his  pupil  Johann  Ernst  Bach  (34)  writes 
a  Kyrie  and  Gloria,  introducing  the  chorale  Es  woll  uns  Gott  gnadig  sein 
(God  have  mercy  on  us).  Similar  instances  may  be  detected  even  in  the 
works  of  Sebastian's  Leipzig  predecessor,  Kuhnau,  and  in  compositions 
by  Zachau  and  Telemann. 

The  brief  Kyrie  of  Nicolaus'  Mass,  consisting  of  the  traditional  three 
sections,  makes  an  effective  preparation  for  the  more  elaborate  Gloria, 
In  the  latter,  each  of  its  four  sections  employs  one  verse  of  the  chorale  as  a 
cantus  firmus,  sung  by  a  mezzo-soprano,  thus  providing  the  fifth  vocal 
part  of  the  composition.  The  dramatic  contrast  between  the  quiet  long 
notes  of  the  hymn  tune  and  the  fast-moving,  agitated  setting  of  the  Mass 
text  is  strengthened  by  the  simultaneous  use  of  two  languages :  German 
for  the  chorale,  Latin  for  the  Ordinary.  No  doubt  the  introduction  of  their 
native  tongue  into  the  Latin  original  made  the  Lutheran  congregation 
fully  aware  that  the  Popish  text  had  completely  become  their  property.1 
To  avoid  the  inevitable  monotony  resulting  from  four  statements  of  the 

1  Spitta's  idea  (I.e.)  that  the  cantus  firmus  was  originally  meant  for  instruments  and 
not  for  voices  does  not  seem  justified,  since  he  subconsciously  applies  Johann  Sebastian's 
attitude  to  the  work  of  Nicolaus.  For  the  Jena  composer,  Italian  and  German,  Catholic  and 
Protestant,  were  two  excitingly  opposed  spheres  which  he  tried  to  combine  to  the  best  of 
his  ability;  for  the  Leipzig  master  they  formed  an  organic  unit,  the  elements  of  which  did 
not  present  any  disturbing  contradictions.  The  slight  difficulty  that  the  range  of  the  soprano 
voice  in  the  mixed  quartet  is  usually  higher  than  that  in  the  cantus  firmus  may  be  easily 
overcome  by  giving  the  hymn  tune  to  a  larger  group  of  singers,  so  as  to  make  it  always 
clearly  audible. 


same  cantus  firmus  melody,  Nicolaus  changes  its  rhythm  from  the 
common  to  triple  time  in  the  first  section,  Gloria  in  excelsis  Deo,  and  the 
fourth  section,  Quoniam  tu  solus  Sanctus.  This  fourth  section  also  substi- 
tutes four  violas  for  the  ordinary  combination  of  two  violins  and  two 
violas.  The  return  of  the  violins  in  the  coda  provides  the  impressive  free 
double  fugue  of  the  Cum  Sancto  Spiritu  with  an  element  of  additional 

There  is  (through  the  absence  of  the  cantus  firmus)  a  stylistic  relation 
between  introduction  and  coda,  a  rhythmic  relation  between  the  first  and 
fourth  sections,  and  a  melodic  link  between  the  introduction  and  the 
second  section.  Only  the  third  section,  Domine,fili  unigenite,  modulating 
effectively  from  the  predominant  key  of  G  to  b  at  the  words  miserere 
nobis,  preserves  the  independence  of  a  somewhat  contrasting  middle  part. 
It  is  deeply  regrettable  that  this  vigorous  and  exciting  piece  is  the  only 
product  of  Nicolaus'  church  music  that  has  so  far  come  to  light. 

The  Jena  composer's  second  large  work  is  as  different  from  this  Mass 
as  two  compositions  by  the  same  man  can  possibly  be.  It  is  a  burlesque 
cantata  of  the  kind  known  to  us  from  Sebastian's  'Peasant  Cantata,'  a 
work  that  might  equally  well  be  performed  on  the  stage  as  in  the  concert 
hall.  Der  Jenaische  Wein-  und  Bierrufer  (The  Jena  wine  and  beer  crier) 
dramatizes  a  little  farce  taken  from  student  life  in  Jena.  Two  timid  young 
'foxes'  (the  nickname  for  inexperienced  freshmen),  Monsieur  Peter  and 
Monsieur  Clemon,  come  from  their  little  home-town  to  Jena,  where  they 
put  up  at  the  inn  of  their  fellow  countryman,  Monsieur  Caspar.  The 
publican  is  advising  them  in  a  rather  patronizing  way  how  to  behave, 
when  their  conversation  is  interrupted  by  the  appearance  of  the  wine  and 
beer  crier,  Johannes,  who  announces  the  opening  of  a  fresh  cask  in  a 
neighbouring  tavern.  Urged  on  by  the  innkeeper,  the  two  boys  begin  to 
tease  the  old  man,  who  without  the  slightest  hesitation  repays  them  in 
kind.  The  students  employ  quite  a  few  foul  names,  and  at  last  an  abusive 
term  so  enrages  their  victim  that  he  threatens  to  complain  to  the  President 
of  the  University.  This  intimidates  the  youths  and  they  leave,  singing  a 
final  aria  in  praise  of  Jena,  in  which  the  publican  joins.1  The  work,  which 
was  probably  written  for  the  'Collegium  Musicum,'  makes  ample  use  of 
the  student  jargon  with  which  Nicolaus  was  naturally  fully  conversant; 
and  it  reveals  the  composer  as  not  averse  from  the  occasional  use  of  gross 
and  vulgar  jokes,  a  tendency  he  possessed  in  common  with  other  members 

1  The  new  edition  of  the  work  by  Fritz  Stein  calls  for  Johannes,  also,  to  sing  in  the 
final  number.  This  is  both  dramatically  and  musically  wrong.  The  crier  is  far  too  angry 
to  fall  in  with  the  students'  song,  and  the  composer  did  not  provide  any  part  for  him. 

$)6  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

of  his  clan.  The  wine  and  beer  crier,  Johannes,  is  by  no  means  a  character 
invented  by  Bach.  As  early  as  1681  the  'wine  and  beer  crier  who  is  also 
used  as  a  nightwatchman  and  lives  in  the  Johannisturm'  is  mentioned  in  a 
description  of  Jena.1  This  functionary  held  yet  a  third  job;  on  Sundays 
and  festival  days  he  operated  the  bellows  for  the  organist.  Nicolaus  there- 
fore had  a  good  chance  of  studying  his  eccentricities  at  close  range, 
especially  since  the  same  individual,  whose  real  name  was  Hans  Michael 
Vater,  occupied  the  position  from  1724  to  1743.  It  seems  probable  that  the 
organist's  humorous  satire  was  aimed  at  Vater  and  was  written  during  the 
latter's  term  of  office. 

The  music  to  this  burlesque  is  of  the  simplest  kind,  very  similar  to  the 
plain  Singspiele  of  the  contemporary  Hamburg  opera.  The  minute 
orchestra  of  two  violins  and  basso  continuo,  which  enlivens  the  musical 
texture  by  gay  little  accompanying  figures  (Ex.  17),  the  plain  folksong- 

j)  j)  J>  J?r,  j  n 

i  j)  i  j)  j    l 




<jern  um  "Bier  undWein^u.-malvo 


I    i    $W  g^ 

r      J     J     \ 

J     I     J    1 

like  melodies,  the  absence  of  any  overture  or  complicated  vocal  forms, 
the  use  of  singers  who  for  most  of  the  time  are  heard  only  in  secco  recita- 
tives or  in  simple  arias:  all  this  shows  that  some  of  the  spirit  of  the  new 
comic  opera  had  found  its  way  into  Bach's  work.  There  are  only  two 
ensemble  numbers  in  this  score:  a  gay  duet  at  the  beginning,  and  the 
charming  trio  at  the  end.  The  main  attraction  of  the  remaining  numbers 
is  furnished  by  the  composer's  art  of  humorous  characterization.  There  are 
the  students,  alternately  timid  and  insolent;  the  pompous  crier,  who  one 
moment  praises  his  wares  in  a  majestic  manner  and  then  in  the  same 
breath  addresses  his  opponents  with  the  most  vulgar  invective;  and 
finally,  the  innkeeper  who  pretends  to  be  very  superior  but  is  at  the 
bottom  of  the  whole  mischief.  Here  we  see  the  dramatic  talent  revealed  in 
the  compositions  of  Johann  Christoph  Bach  coming  to  full  blossom  in 
the  work  of  his  son. 

1  Cf.  Adr.  Beier,  'Architectus  Jenaensis,'  1681 

x.  Johann  Ludwig  Bach.  Pastel  by  Gottlieb  Friedrich  Bach 

»7!U-  +  piftfoi .    (0**^'  *  4^'" i*1 :  •'^'t'^  *  i^-*-,     ^-^C" 

xi.  J.  Ludwig  Bach's  Cantata  'Gott  ist  unser  Zuversicht'  in  the  hand  of  J. 
Sebastian  Bach.  In  order  to  make  best  use  of  the  expensive  paper  Sebastian 
starts  the  following  aria  on  the  bottom  of  the  page  although  the  first  chorus 

is  not  yet  finished 


Johannes (2) 


Johann  (4)=Hedwig  Lammerhirt 



J.  Christian  (7) 

J.  Egidius  (8) 

Christoph  (5) 

J.  Ambrosius  (n)=Elisab.  Lammerhirt 
1645-95  1644-94 

J.  Jakob  (16)     J.  Christoph  (17)     J.  Bernhard  (18)     J.  Christoph  (19)     J.  Sebastian  (24) 
1668-92  1673-1727  1676-1749  1685-1740  1685-1750 

J.  Gtinther  (33)         J.  Ernst  (34) 
1703-56  1722-77 

J.  Gottfried  Bernhard  (47) 

the  Genealogy  mentions  four  grandsons  of  the  Erfurt  town  musician, 
Johann  Bach.  One  of  them,  Johann  Jakob,  was  assistant  to  Ambrosius 
Bach,  in  whose  house  he  died  at  Eisenach  aged  24.  Jakob's  younger 
brother,  Johann  Christoph  (17),  born  in  1673,  also  seems  to  have  stayed 
with  the  hospitable  Ambrosius  for  a  short  time  after  his  father's  death,  for 
the  register  of  the  Eisenach  Latin  school  mentions  him  as  a  pupil  in  1683- 
1684.  How  he  obtained  his  further  education  is  not  known;  but  he  must 
have  been  ambitious  and  very  able,  since  the  orphaned  youth,  besides 
receiving  the  musical  training  traditional  in  the  family,  managed  to  study 
Theology.  Thanks  to  these  double  qualifications  he  found  a  position  as 
Cantor  in  a  village  near  Erfurt,  exchanging  it  in  1698  for  a  similar  one  in 
Gehren,  where  an  uncle,  the  late  Johann  Michael  (cf.  p.  38),  had  been 
very  successful  as  an  organist  and  town  clerk.  Unfortunately  Johann 
Christoph's  life  in  the  little  community  was  very  different  from  that  of 
his  kinsman.  Poor  and  very  irregular  payments  together  with  attacks 
from  a  hostile  superior  (who  accused  the  Cantor,  for  instance,  of  using 
dance  motives  in  his  church  music1)  made  up  the  tenor  of  his  existence. 

1  Cf.  Wiegand,  'Die  Arnstadter  Bache,'  in  'J-  S.  Bach  und  seine  Verwandten  in 
Arnstadt,'  1950. 

G  97 

98  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

Since  the  stubbornness  and  belligerence  of  the  Bachs  were  very  strongly- 
developed  in  the  Gehren  Cantor,  he  fought  back  violently,  with  the  result 
that  his  existence  was  a  very  unhappy  one.  Yet  he  stayed  on  at  Gehren  for 
twenty-nine  years,  until  1727  when  he  was  felled  by  a  sudden  illness.  His 
three  sons,  however,  were  anxious  to  leave  the  uncongenial  town.  Two 
served  as  musicians  in  Sondershausen,  where  they  died  at  an  early  age; 
the  third,  Johann  Giinther  (33),  whom  Sebastian  praised  as  a  good  tenor, 
became  a  schoolmaster  in  Erfurt,  working  at  the  same  time  with  the  town 

Much  more  satisfactory  were  the  careers  of  two  other  grandsons  of 
Johann,  children  of  Johann  Egidius.  The  younger  one,  another  Johann 
Christoph  (19),  born  in  the  same  year  as  Sebastian,  followed  his  father  as 
director  of  the  Erfurt  town  musicians,  and  held  the  position  up  to  his 
death  in  1740.  The  elder  one,  Johann  Bernhard  (18),  born  1676,  must  have 
been  an  eminent  organist;  for  after  he  had  served  at  Erfurt's  Kaufmanns- 
kirche  his  reputation  was  so  high  that  he  was  called  away  from  Thuringia 
to  the  city  of  Magdeburg.  However,  he  returned  to  his  native  state  when, 
on  the  death  of  the  great  Johann  Christoph  Bach,  the  position  as 
Eisenach's  organist  was  offered  him.  Working  at  the  fine  organ,  re- 
modelled according  to  his  predecessor's  instructions,  must  have  proved 
satisfactory  to  Johann  Bernhard;  for,  following  the  old-established  Bach 
pattern,  he  remained  at  Eisenach  until  he  died  in  1749.  For  the  greater  part 
of  this  period  he  seems  to  have  lived  in  the  same  house;  thus  being  spared 
the  problems  from  which  Johann  Christoph  had  suffered  so  much.  Shortly 
after  his  arrival  in  Eisenach,  the  general  musical  activities  in  the  town 
were  greatly  improved  by  the  efforts  of  two  outstanding  conductors  who 
served  there  in  succession,  the  eminent  virtuoso,  Pantaleon  Hebenstreit, 
and  the  energetic  and  highly  productive  Philipp  Telemann.  A  contem- 
porary writer,  Johann  Limberg,  described  the  local  musical  conditions  as 
follows:1  'On  this  [new]  organ  every  Sunday  graceful  music  is  performed 
in  the  honour  of  the  Lord,  often  with  kettledrums  and  trumpets.  The 
Council  has  engaged  for  this  purpose  Mr.  J.  Konrad  Geisthirte  as  Cantor, 
Mr.  J.  Bernhard  Bach  as  organist  and  Mr.  J.  Heinrich  Halle  [the  successor 
of  J.  Ambrosius  Bach]  as  musicus  instrumentalis.  All  three  are  renowned 
and  well  experienced  in  their  art.  Recently  the  church  music  has  been 
really  perfected,  as  the  newly  appointed  court  musicians,  who  are  all  out- 
standing, have  been  commanded  to  the  organ  loft  so  as  to  be  heard  for 
the  honour  of  God  and  the  edification  of  the  congregation.  This  whole 
body  of  musicians  is  under  the  direction  of  Mr.  Telemann,  a  man  of  pro- 

1  Cf.  'Das  im  Jahre  1708  lebende  und  schwebende  Eisenach,'  1709. 


found  knowledge  and  eminent  invention.'  Telemann  stayed  for  four  years 
only,  and  after  his  departure  the  music-loving  Duke  Johann  Wilhelm 
may  have  appreciated  all  the  more  the  talent  of  his  organist,  who  also 
supplied  him  with  delightful  orchestral  suites.  Bernhard's  salary  was 
eventually  almost  doubled  and  remained  undiminished  even  when,  in 
1741,  Eisenach  became  part  of  the  principality  of  Weimar  and  its  ducal 
band  was  dismissed. 

There  was  a  great  friendship  between  Bernhard  and  Sebastian,  who 
were  related  both  on  their  fathers'  and  on  their  mothers'  sides.1  Bernhard 
was  the  godfather  of  Sebastian's  third  son,  Johann  Gottfried  Bernhard, 
while  Sebastian  acted  in  the  same  capacity  for  the  Eisenach  organist's 
eldest  son,  Johann  Ernst,  whose  teacher  he  subsequently  became.  But 
above  all  Sebastian  thought  very  highly  of  Bernhard's  creative  work. 


Not  many  of  Bernhard's  compositions  have  survived.  They  consist 
exclusively  of  smaller  works  for  the  keyboard  instruments  and  suites  for 
string  orchestra.  Their  preservation  is  mainly  due  to  two  great  kinsmen  of 
his:  the  organ  chorales  were  copied  by  Bernhard's  pupil,  the  outstanding 
organist  and  lexicographer,  Johann  Gottfried  Walther  (whose  mother 
was  a  Lammerhirt  too),  while  the  orchestral  suites  were  apparently  per- 
formed by  the  Thomas  Cantor,  who  personally  wrote  out  parts  for  them. 

It  is  significant  that  Luther's  powerful  and  yet  so  simple  chorale  Wir 
glauben  all'  an  einen  Gott  (We  believe  all  in  but  one  God)  particularly 
appealed  to  Bernhard  Bach.  He  used  it  in  three  different  organ  preludes 
which  all  express  the  same  deep  and  unquestioning  faith.  Straightforward- 
ness and  simplicity  mingled  with  richly  flowing  imagination  are  also 
apparent  in  his  organ  works.2 

There  are  various  types  of  chorale  prelude  in  his  output.  The  simplest 
kind  is  to  be  found  in  two-part  arrangements  (bicinia),  in  which  one 
quickly  moving  part  accompanies  the  chorale  melody  presented  in  long 
notes.  But  even  in  this  unpretentious  form  Bernhard  attempts  to  portray 
the  mood  of  the  text  in  the  counter-melody.  Moreover  he  occasionally 
alternates  the  cantus  firmus  between  the  soprano  and  bass  parts,  and  the 

1  Bernhard's   grandmother,   Hedwig  Lammerhirt,   was   a   half-sister   of  Sebastian's 
mother,  Elisabeth  Lammerhirt. 

2  They  are  equally  revealed  in  his  very  characteristic  handwriting.  Cf.  H.  Kiihn, 
'Vier  Organisten  Eisenachs  aus  Bachischem  Geschlecht,'  in  'Aus  Luthers  lieber  Stadt,'  1935. 



individual  sections  start  with  melodic  references  to  the  following  chorale 
line.  Among  his  three-part  preludes,  Vom  Himmel  hoch  (From  heaven 
above  to  earth  I  come)  is  particularly  interesting.  Here  the  cantus  firmus 
is  given  to  a  middle  part,  while  the  highest  voice  offers  delightful  free 
passages  expressing  Christmas  cheer  and  portraying  the  fluttering  of 
angels'  wings.1 

Bernhard  also  cultivated  the  Chorale  Partita,  a  form  of  composition 
based  on  a  chorale  tune,  which  is  stated  at  the  beginning  in  simple  harmon- 
ization, and  then  followed  by  a  number  of  variations  or  'Partitas'  corre- 
sponding to  the  number  of  verses  in  the  chorale  text.  Bernhard's  four 
variations  on  the  hymn  Du  Friedefiirst,  Herr  Jesu  Christ  (Thou  Prince  of 
Peace)  surround  the  melody  with  expressive  ornamentations,  thus 
achieving  a  warm  sonority  and  appealing  emotional  fervour. 

The  composer's  skill  in  handling  the  variation  form  is  equally  dis- 
played in  his  organ2  Chaconne  in  B  flat.  The  20  variations  on  a  vigorous 
8-measure  subject  present  the  forceful  harmonic  sequence  in  patterns  of 
quickly  changing  rhythm  and  melody.  Within  the  narrow  limitations  of 
this  form  the  composer  succeeds  in  exhibiting  a  series  of  highly  engaging 

Among  his  best  works  for  keyboard  instruments  are  two  fugues  in  D 
and  F,  into  which  Bernhard,  stimulated  by  the  unlimited  possibilities  of 
the  well-tempered  system,  introduced  chromatic  progressions  and 
sequences  of  unusual  boldness  {Ex.  18).  It  is  moreover  interesting  to  note 

that  the  composer,  like  his  cousin  Sebastian,  favoured  the  concertante 
principle  in  the  episodes  connecting  the  thematic  developments  of  his 

1  Cf.  Frotscher,  /.c,  I,  p.  586. 

2  The  great  distance  between  the  three  parts  in  variation  VII,  which  makes  a  per- 
formance without  pedals  impossible,  shows  that  the  composition  usually  referred  to  as  a 
work  for  the  clavier  was  probably  meant  for  the  organ. 



fugues.  This  is  by  no  means  the  only  point  of  contact  between  the  key- 
board works  of  the  two  kinsmen.  In  particular,  Sebastian's  early  Partitas 
show  the  influence  of  Bernhard's  style.1 

Even  more  conspicuous  is  the  artistic  affinity  between  the  two  com- 
posers' orchestral  suites.  Each  of  them  wrote  four  suites,  of  which  Bern- 
hard's in  g  for  solo  violin  and  strings  and  Sebastian's  in  b  for  solo  flute 
and  strings  are  closely  related.  The  Overtures  in  both  works  use  the 
concerto  fugue,  and  not  only  their  themes,2  but  even  the  figurations  show 
a  certain  resemblance.  Each  suite  has  among  its  dances  a  vigorous  move- 
ment entitled  Rondeau,  a  heading  not  too  frequently  found  in  orchestral 
suites  of  this  period.  But  apart  from  this  comparison  Bernhard's  suite  is, 
in  its  own  right,  a  work  of  fine  craftsmanship  and  vivid  inspiration.  In 
addition  to  the  two  movements  mentioned,  it  includes  a  lofty  Air,  in 
which  the  orchestra  supports  a  gentle  cantilena  of  the  solo  violin,  a 
fascinating  Fantaisie  in  da  capo  form,  and  a  witty  Passepied. 

His  other  three  works  of  this  kind,  although  not  quite  on  the  same 
level  as  the  Suite  in  g,  contain  many  delightful  movements.  These  com- 
positions are  for  strings  only  without  any  solo  instrument.  The  solidly 
constructed  Overtures  are  always  most  remarkable;  but  the  amusing 
Tempete  (a  naive  description  of  a  storm)  concluding  the  Suite  in  G,  the 
sparkling  Les  Plaisirsz  in  the  Suite  in  e,  the  pompous  Marche  and  the 
charming  3  Caprices  with  their  attractive  imitations  (Ex.  19)  in  that  in 

D,  would  also  justify  a  revival  of  the  works  they  adorn.  Not  many  com- 
posers of  the  time  wrote  orchestral  suites  of  equal  significance  and 
technical  mastery. 

1  The  bass  in  the  first  variation  of  Sei  gegriisset  Jesu  giitig,  for  instance,  is  surprisingly- 
similar  to  that  in  Bernhard's  bicinium,  Jesus,  Jesus,  nichts  als  Jesus. 

2  The  theme  in  Bernhard's  Overture  must  have  impressed  Sebastian  particularly, 
since  he  quoted  it  almost  literally  in  the  Andante  of  his  first  Sonata  for  flute  and  harpsichord. 

3  The  title  Les  Plaisirs  for  a  Bourree  was  also  used  by  Telemann  in  his  Suite  in  a. 
Telemann's  work  contains  moreover  a  Rejouissance,  a  title  employed  by  Sebastian  in  his 
Suite  in  D. 


Johannes  (2) 


Christoph  (5) 



Joh.  Ambrosius  (1 1) 


Joh.  Sebastian  (24) 

Veit  (1) 

Lips  (3) 








I  I  I 

Joh.  Ludwig       Nikolaus  Ephraim      Georg  Michael 

1677-1731  1690-1760  1701-1777 

Joh.  Christian 

the  1 8th  century  witnessed  the  formation  of  an  important  Bach  centre 
at  the  court  of  Meiningen.  According  to  family  tradition,  the  branch  was 
descended  from  Lips  Bach,  a  brother  of  Johannes,  the  Spielmann  (cf.  p. 
11),  but  the  further  development  of  this  branch  is  shrouded  in  darkness 
and  family  legends.  We  reach  firm  ground  only  in  the  later  part  of  the  17th 
century  with  the  person  of  Jakob  Bach,  born  in  165  5,1  in  the  Thuringian 
village  of  Wolfsbehringen.  Our  knowledge  of  this  founder  of  a  line  of 
eminent  artists — a  line,  incidentally,  which  has  continued  up  to  the  present 
day — is  comparatively  large,  for  by  a  lucky  chance  a  curriculum  vitae 
which  Jakob  had  to  write  for  a  school  Superintendent  has  been  preserved.2 
Jakob's  father,  Wendel  (1619-82),  seems  to  have  been  a  simple  farmer3 
with  very  little  money  but  with  much  ambition  for  his  son.  In  1669,  at 
the  age  of  14,  Jakob  was  sent  to  the  Eisenach  Latin  school,  an  institution 

1  Jakob  Bach  himself  mentions  1654  as  the  year  of  his  birth;  Spitta  and  Terry  give  it 
as  1655,  which  seems  to  be  the  correct  date  according  to  the  entry  in  the  register  of  deaths. 

2  It  is  to  be  found  in  the  archives  of  the  Landeskirchenrat  der  Thiiringer  evangelischen 
Kirche  at  Eisenach. 

3  That  is  how  Rollberg  interprets  the  description  'Innwohner,'  which  Jakob  Bach 
uses.  Cf.  his  article  in  'Thiiringer  Fahnlein,'  H.  8,  1933. 

jakob's  life  103 

which  was  to  be  attended  later  by  many  of  his  kinsmen.  Eisenach,  how- 
ever, did  not  prove  to  be  a  good  choice.  At  that  time  the  hospitable 
Johann  Ambrosius  Bach  had  not  yet  come  to  the  city,  and  Johann 
Christoph,  the  great  organist,  was  just  trying  to  get  established  and  to 
provide  for  his  young  wife  and  first  son.  Probably  Jakob  could  not  get 
much  support  from  him  and  was  unable  to  make  ends  meet;  whatever  the 
cause,  the  school  register  reports  that  Jakob  left  school  in  1671  after  being 
found  guilty  of  a  theft.  He  transferred  to  a  similar  school  in  Gotha,  where 
he  apparently  received  good  musical  instruction1  and  found  conditions  so 
much  to  his  liking  that  many  years  later  he  sent  his  own  son,  Johann 
Ludwig,  to  the  same  institute.  Whilst  in  Gotha,  he  fell  in  love  with 
Anna  Martha  Schmidt,  daughter  of  a  hatmaker.  Neither  of  the  young 
people  was  more  than  18  years  old  when  they  ran  away  from  Gotha  and 
married.  After  a  short  period  of  bliss,  they  found  they  had  nothing  to  live 
on.  So  young  Martha  returned  to  her  parents,  while  Jakob  attempted  to 
conclude  his  studies  in  the  city  of  Miihlhausen  (thus  being  the  first  Bach 
to  stay  in  this  town,  which  was  to  harbour  three  other  kinsmen,  among 
them  the  greatest  of  them  all).  Unfortunately  the  free  lodging  on  which 
he  was  counting  did  not  materialize,  and  after  a  stay  of  six  months  Jakob's 
financial  worries  became  so  acute  that  he  decided  to  become  a  musketeer 
in  the  army  of  the  Prince  of  Eisenach,  which  was  just  taking  part  in  the 
Emperor's  war  against  France.  But  army  life  did  not  suit  Jakob  either,  and 
after  a  year  he  managed  to  buy  himself  out;  he  then  tried  to  become  a 
schoolmaster.  At  last  luck  was  with  him.  When  a  position  in  the 
Thuringian  village  of  Thai  became  vacant,  the  youth  of  21  applied  for  it, 
and  passed  the  examination  by  the  Consistory,  as  well  as  the  test  in  organ 
playing  and  singing  before  the  community,  with  such  good  results  that 
he  was  appointed.  Now  his  beloved  wife  could  join  him  at  last.  The 
product  of  their  blissful  reunion  was  Jakob's  first  son,  the  handsome  and 
highly  gifted  Johann  Ludwig.  Henceforth  Jakob's  life  was  spent  as  a 
teacher  and  Cantor,  and  his  inherent  restlessness  manifested  itself  merely  in 
a  not  infrequent  change  of  positions  which  took  him  subsequently  to  the 
cities  of  Steinbach,  Wasungen,  and  Ruhla.  That  he  was  everywhere 
considered  a  most  respectable  member  of  the  community  is  apparent  in 
the  highly  placed  godparents  whom  he  was  able  to  provide  for  his 
numerous  children.  His  married  life  was  not  lacking  in  variety.  He  buried 
not  only  his  beloved  Martha,  but  two  other  wives.  At  the  age  of  61  he 

1  That  the  Gotha  school  provided  satisfactory  training  in  music  is  proved  by  the  case 
of  Georg  Bohm,  who  attended  it  a  few  years  later.  As  organist  at  Liineburg,  Bohm  was 
to  exercise  a  deep  influence  on  young  Sebastian  Bach. 

104  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

entered  matrimony  for  the  fourth  time,  and  still  had  two  offspring  before 
he  died  in  171 8.  The  musical  talent  he  handed  on  must  have  been  con- 
siderable, for  each  of  his  first  two  marriages  produced  a  highly  gifted 

Jakob's  eldest  son,  Johann  Ludwig,  was  born  on  February  4,  1677,  at 
Thai,  and  received  a  good  education.  He  attended  the  Gotha  Gymnasium 
from  1688  to  1693  and  subsequently  studied  Theology.2  His  first  position 
was,  like  that  of  his  father's,  a  double  one;  he  worked,  as  he  described  it 
himself,  in  the  'school  and  church'  of  Salzungen.  When  he  was  22  he 
was  called  to  Meiningen,  the  capital  of  a  newly  established  little  Princi- 
pality of  Saxe-Meiningen,  which  arose  from  the  division  of  the  estate  of 
Prince  Ernst  ('the  Pious')  of  Gotha  among  his  seven  sons.  The  third  son, 
Bernhard,  was  allotted  Meiningen  with  a  number  of  neighbouring  towns 
and  villages;  he  took  possession  in  1680.  Prince  Bernhard  I  was  the 
typical  pocket-size  sovereign  of  the  time,  both  in  his  good  and  bad  aspects. 
He  was  anxious  to  promote  the  material  and  spiritual  welfare  of  his 
subjects.  Under  his  rule  agriculture,  fruit-growing,  and  mining  were  im- 
proved, an  orphanage  was  built,  attempts  were  made  to  provide  for  the 
poor  of  the  district,  an  excellent  Latin  school  was  established,  and  new 
churches  were  built.  A  very  religious  sovereign,  he  wrote  down  from 
memory  all  the  sermons  he  heard — and  sermons  at  that  time  lasted  much 
longer  than  in  our  days! — leaving  behind  14  folios  of  transcripts.  He  had 
a  Communion  service  printed,  the  prayers  for  which  he  collected  himself. 
On  the  other  hand,  he  believed  firmly  in  witchcraft,  and  he  spent  huge 
sums  on  alchemistic  experiments  in  the  hope  that  the  gold  so  produced 
would  solve  his  increasing  financial  embarrassments  once  and  for  all. 
When  the  gold  failed  to  materialize,  he  chose  the  easier  expedient  of 
trading  his  subjects  to  the  Doge  of  Venice  to  serve  in  the  fight  against  the 
Turks,  receiving  36  thalers  for  each  soldier.  This,  of  course,  brought  only 
temporary  relief.  Indeed,  the  state  finances  were  at  so  low  a  level  that  the 
sovereign's  own  son  and  heir,  Ernst  Ludwig,  published  anonymously  a 
pamphlet  advising  the  Prince  how  to  save  Meiningen  from  bankruptcy. 

But  whatever  may  have  been  Bernhard  I's  faults,  he  certainly  showed 
wisdom  in  securing  young  Bach  for  his  court.  Perhaps  he  was  first 
attracted  by  Johann  Ludwig's  unusual  good  looks,  but  it  did  not  take  him 
long  to  see  that  he  had  acquired  an  extremely  capable  servant.  In  1703 

1  Georg  Michael  Bach  (1703-71),  an  offspring  of  Jakob's  third  marriage,  was  also  a 
musician,  and  worked  as  Cantor  at  St.  Ulrich,  Halle.  His  son,  Christian  (1743-1814),  later 
known  as  the  'Clavier-Bach,'  was  Wilhelm  Friedemann  Bach's  pupil. 

2  He  mentions  this  fact  in  a  petition  he  made  in  1725.  Cf.  Miihlfeld,  'Die  herzogliche 
Hofkapelle  in  Meiningen,'  Meiningen,  19 10. 


Johann  Ludwig  was  entrusted  with  two  different  spheres  of  work,  being 
appointed  court  Cantor  and  master  of  the  ducal  pages.  His  duties  were 
manifold  indeed:  holding  prayer  meetings  with  the  pages  and  certain 
court  servants  every  morning  and  evening;  keeping  careful  check  on 
attendances  at  these  meetings  according  to  lists  given  him,  and  notifying 
the  court  marshal  or  chaplain  of  any  absentees;  teaching  the  young  noble- 
men first  of  all  the  catechism,  then,  in  addition,  other  far  less  important 
subjects  such  as  writing,  arithmetic,  and  history;  working  out  the  pages' 
schedule  for  lessons  and  sports;  watching  his  charges  day  and  night; 
keeping  the  church  books;  and,  finally,  the  occupation  which  really 
mattered  to  him,  supervising  the  church  music.1  The  position  certainly 
had  both  advantages  and  drawbacks.  The  remuneration  was  fairly  satis- 
factory, since  it  provided  free  board  and  lodging  at  court  as  well  as  a 
sizable  stipend  in  cash.2  On  the  other  hand,  Ludwig  had  almost  as  little 
freedom  as  his  young  charges;  he  could  not  absent  himself  even  for  an 
evening  without  permission  from  the  court  marshal.  Moreover  his 
various  duties  did  not  leave  sufficient  scope  for  the  development  of  his 
musical  gifts.  Perhaps  these  were  the  reasons  why  he  attempted  a  change. 
On  October  26, 1706,3  his  father  wrote  a  petition  on  his  behalf  to  Eisenach 
to  secure  the  position  of  Cantor  which  had  become  vacant  through  the 
death  of  Ambrosius  Bach's  friend,  Andreas  Christian  Dedekind.  It  is 
significant  that  the  applicant  stressed  his  son's  interest  in  all  musical 
duties,  adding,  however,  that  the  teaching  work  might  better  be  entrusted 
to  a  substitute  to  be  paid  by  Johann  Ludwig.  Jakob's  attempt  failed,  but 
fortunately  conditions  changed  in  Meiningen  itself.  Prince  Bernhard  I 
died  in  April  1706,  and  his  successor,  Prince  Ernst  Ludwig,  on  recognizing 
the  Cantor's  special  gifts,  relieved  him  in  171 1  of  all  his  previous  duties, 
entrusting  him  instead  with  the  direction  of  the  enlarged  court  orchestra, 
which  in  past  years  had  been  conducted  by  Georg  Kaspar  Schiirmann,  a 
very  prolific  opera  composer.  About  that  time  Johann  Ludwig  married  a 
daughter  of  the  architect,  Samuel  Rust,4  and  as  his  presence  at  the  castle 
for  the  supervision  of  the  pages  was  no  longer  required,  he  was  allowed 
to  set  up  a  household  of  his  own.  In  lieu  of  board  and  lodging  he  was 
granted  a  contribution  of  16  thalers  to  the  rent,  and  a  certain  yearly 

1  The  instructions  published  in  full  by  Miihlfeld,  I.e.,  only  mention  that  'he  has  to  sing 
the  chorale  at  the  service  on  Sundays  and  during  the  week/  but  as  the  document  addressed 
Bach  as  court  Cantor,  it  may  be  assumed  that  he  had  to  undertake  all  the  musical  duties 
of  a  Cantor. 

2  A  yearly  amount  of  99  fl.  12  gr. 

3  Cf.  Superint.  Archiv  Eisenach:  B  25,  B  2,  p.  20. 

4  Rust  built  Meiningen's  new  castle,  the  Elisabethenburg. 

106  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

amount  of  rye,  wheat,  barley,  carp,  game,  and  candles.  Apart  from  instruc- 
tion in  painting  which  he  gave  to  the  Princes,1  his  time  was  now  devoted 
to  music  and  he  produced  a  great  number  of  compositions,  in  addition  to 
being  kept  busy  as  a  performer.  His  orchestra  paid  regular  visits  to  neigh- 
bouring courts,  thus  starting  a  tradition  which  was  in  the  19th  century  to 
come  to  glorious  life  again  in  the  famous  Meiningen  orchestra  tours  under 
von  Biilow  and  Brahms.  Even  when  the  musicians  were  at  home,  per- 
formances took  place  once,  and  sometimes  twice,  a  day.  Johann  Ludwig 
used  to  accompany  on  the  harpsichord  the  visiting  artists  who  often 
appeared  on  these  occasions;  or  he  performed  himself  on  the  violin.  What 
part  music  played  in  celebrations  at  the  Meiningen  court  is  apparent  in 
the  instructions  issued  for  the  birthday  of  a  Prince,  which  read  as  follows: 

Monday  at  4  a.m.  (!).  Intrada  with  trumpets  and  kettledrums. 

Monday  at  7  a.m.  The  usual  morning  music  by  the  whole  band. 

Monday  at  9.30  a.m.  Church  service,  Te  Deum  with  trumpets  and  ketdedrums,  3 
salutes  by  cannon. 

At  dinner-music  improper  tuning  to  be  avoided,  an  Overture  to  be  played  first;  the 
text  of  the  Cantata  to  be  handed  to  Serenissimo;  after  the  Cantata  ketdedrums  and 
trumpets.  At  the  supper-table  strong  instrumental  music  with  trumpets  and  ketde- 
drums. Large  orchestra  for  the  following  ball. 

Posterity  does  not  view  Prince  Ernst  Ludwig  in  too  pleasant  a  light. 
Apparently  it  did  not  occur  to  the  new  sovereign  that  the  sound  economic 
advice  he  had  given  his  father  should  be  applied  to  his  own  way  of  life. 
He  was  just  as  extravagant,  spending  excessively  large  sums  on  the 
building  of  new  castles  and  churches.  The  luxuries  enjoyed  at  his  court 
would  have  been  appropriate  for  a  much  more  important  sovereign,  and 
this  was  especially  true  when  he  brought  to  Meiningen  as  his  second  wife 
a  daughter  of  the  'Great  Elector'  of  Brandenburg;  on  that  occasion  one 
large-scale  festivity  followed  another.  The  Prince  was  not  only  a  prodigal 
spender,  he  was  ruthless  in  his  dealings  with  other  members  of  the  family 
who  had  claims  on  the  estate,  and  he  continually  waged  war  against  the 
neighbouring  small  principalities,  with  the  object  of  increasing  his  posses- 
sions. But  all  this  probably  did  not  seriously  concern  his  music  director, 
for  to  Johann  Ludwig  the  fact  that  his  Prince  was  a  passionate  lover  of  the 
Muses  was  the  most  important  thing.  The  sovereign  wrote  poetry  him- 
self, mostly  of  a  religious  nature,  and  occasionally  set  it  to  music;  as  for 
instance,  when  he  composed  the  funeral  music  for  his  own  brother.  His 
music  director  could  always  count  on  the  Prince's  support  and  under- 
standing, and  thus  Johann  Ludwig  was  able  fully  to  develop  his  great 
creative  gifts.  When  the  Prince  died  in  1724,  mainly  from  the  shock  he 
1  Cf.  H.  LofBer,  'Bache  bei  Sebastian  Bach,'  BJ,  1949-50. 


suffered  on  the  sudden  death  of  his  beloved  eldest  son,  Johann  Ludwig 
Bach  mourned  him  deeply.  He  composed  a  funeral  cantata  based  on  verses 
the  Prince  had  written  long  before  for  a  similar  occasion.1  This  cantata 
once  more  expressed  the  close  artistic  relations  that  had  existed  between 
the  Prince  and  his  music  director. 

In  the  following  years  confusion  reigned  in  Meiningen.  As  the  sur- 
viving sons  of  the  deceased  potentate  were  too  young,  two  uncles  who 
were  on  the  worst  possible  terms  with  each  other  ruled  as  guardians.  So 
much  energy  was  expended  in  the  pursuit  of  their  quarrels  that  the  Muses 
were  neglected.  It  seems,  however,  that  one  of  the  guardians,  Prince 
Anton  Ulrich,  showed  some  sympathy  for  the  composer.  At  all  events, 
Johann  Ludwig  mustered  up  enough  courage  to  write  a  petition  to  the 
Prince  entreating  him  to  have  the  emoluments  of  which  he  had  been 
deprived  for  many  years  paid  to  him  again.  It  may  be  assumed  that  the 
Prince  granted  the  musician's  wish;  for  in  1728,  when  Anton  Ulrich 
returned  from  a  long  visit  to  Vienna,  Johann  Ludwig  celebrated  this  event 
in  a  special  Festival  Cantata.  Three  years  later  the  composer  died,  and  he 
was  buried  on  May  1,  173 1.2 

Before  discussing  Johann  Ludwig's  contributions  to  the  music  of  his 
time,  mention  should  be  made  of  his  younger  brother,  who  also  served 
the  princely  family  of  Saxe-Meiningen  throughout  his  life.  Nikolaus 
Ephraim  Bach  was  born  on  November  26,  1690,  at  Wasungen.  At  the 
time  when  he  was  ready  for  musical  training,  Johann  Ludwig  was  settled 
at  the  Meiningen  court,  and  it  seems  likely  that  Ephraim  stayed  there  with 
him  as  his  pupil.  The  Prince's  half-sister,  Elisabeth  Ernestine  Antoinette, 
interested  herself  in  the  promising  youth,  who  shared  her  love  for  music 
and  painting;  and  when  she  was  called  as  Abbess  to  the  important 
Protestant  convent  of  Gandersheim,3  she  took  Nikolaus  Ephraim,  then 
18  years  old,  with  her.  The  young  musician  certainly  had  quite  an  unusual 
patroness  to  work  under.  The  Princess  was  famous  all  over  Europe  for 
her  beauty  and  wit,  and  two  of  the  greatest  monarchs,  the  German 
Emperor  Charles  VI,  and  the  French  King  Louis  XIV,  had  asked  for  her 

1  It  is  typical  of  the  time  that  Prince  Ernst  Ludwig  quite  early  in  his  life  selected  a 
special  Psalm  and  wrote  a  poem  for  his  own  funeral;  he  also  prepared  a  funeral  sermon  for 
himself,  which  was  found  in  his  desk  after  his  death. 

2  This  date  was  recendy  ascertained  by  the  Meiningen  church  authorities  from  their 
registers  of  deaths.  The  year  1741  given  by  Spitta  and  Terry  for  Ludwig's  death  is  therefore 

3  This  Nunnery,  founded  in  the  9th  century  by  the  Princes  of  Saxony,  had  become 
Lutheran  in  1586  and  was  used  now  as  a  place  of  retreat  and  contemplation  for  high-born 
Protestant  spinsters.  It  retained  its  political  independence,  being  under  the  jurisdiction  of 
the  Emperor  only,  had  its  own  vote  in  assemblies,  and  possessed  considerable  property. 

108  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

hand,  the  former  for  his  son,  the  latter  for  his  grandson.  The  paramount 
condition  of  both  offers  was  that  she  should  enter  the  Catholic  Church; 
this  the  deeply  religious  Princess  was  unwilling  to  do,  so,  in  order  not  to 
give  offence  to  such  important  suitors,  she  vowed  never  to  marry  but  to 
devote  her  life  to  Christ;  whereupon  the  Emperor  appointed  her  Abbess 
of  Gandersheim,  a  position  she  was  to  hold  for  fifty-three  years.  It  was  by 
no  means  an  easy-going  mistress  that  Ephraim  had  to  serve  throughout 
his  life.  She  quickly  found  out  that  young  Bach  was  extremely  capable  in 
many  ways,  and  she  gave  him  ample  opportunities  for  using  his  various 
gifts.  Several  documents  preserved  in  the  Brunswick  Archives  of  Wolfen- 
biittel  give  us  some  conception  of  the  wide  range  of  his  appointments. 
Not  only  was  he  court  musician  and  organist,  providing  compositions  of 
his  own  when  needed,  he  was  also  in  charge  of  the  Abbess's  large  art 
collection  and  had  moreover  to  instruct  the  court  employees  in  painting. 
As  he  was  also  most  efficient  in  practical  matters,  he  became  master  of  the 
princely  cellars,  as  well  as  auditor  of  the  Abbess's  accounts,  rising  even- 
tually to  the  position  of  intendant  in  charge  of  his  mistress's  entire  house- 
hold.1 How  highly  Nikolaus  Ephraim  was  esteemed  is  revealed  by  the  im- 
posing array  of  princes  and  princesses,  including  the  Abbess,  who  stood 
godfather  and  godmother  to  his  two  children,  the  offspring  of  a  second 
marriage  which  the  robust  court  intendant,  following  the  example  of  his 
father,  contracted  at  the  age  of  65. 2  In  spite  of  all  the  work  piled  on  him, 
Nikolaus  Ephraim's  life  seems  to  have  been  easier  than  that  of  his  elder 
brother.  From  his  18th  year  to  his  death  at  the  age  of  70  he  worked 
under  the  same  patroness,  enjoying  her  full  trust  and  appreciation.  No 
composition  by  Ephraim  has  come  to  light  so  far,  and  we  are  therefore 
unable  to  form  an  idea  of  his  musical  abilities.  What  attracts  our  interest 
apart  from  his  versatility  is  his  apparent  leaning  towards  the  fine  arts 
which  was  to  assume  large  proportions  in  Ephraim's  nephew  and  grand- 
nephew,  the  descendants  of  Johann  Ludwig  Bach. 


If  the  number  of  scores  that  Johann  Sebastian  copied  from  the  works 
of  any  composer  can  be  considered  as  an  indication  of  the  esteem  in  which 
he  held  him,  Ludwig  Bach  ranked  particularly  high  in  his  kinsman's 

1  When  the  wide  range  of  his  duties  forced  him  to  give  up  some  of  his  musical  work, 
another  kinsman  became  Cantor  in  1717.  This  was  Tobias  Friedrich,  son  of  Sebastian's 
eldest  brother  and  teacher,  Johann  Christoph,  of  Ohrdruf. 

2  No  descendants  from  the  first  marriage  are  known. 


favour.  The  Thomas  Cantor  made  careful  copies  of  18  German  church 
cantatas  by  his  Meiningen  cousin,  producing  a  full  score  and  set  of  parts 
for  each  of  them.1  These  copies  offer  a  good  example  of  the  kind  of  score 
the  Leipzig  music  director  prepared  for  his  own  practical  use.  The  music, 
although  apparently  written  in  great  haste,  is  clearly  legible,  whereas  the 
text  is  often  so  much  abbreviated  that  deciphering  proves  difficult.  Sebas- 
tian observed  the  greatest  economy  in  his  handling  of  the  expensive  music 
paper,  and  used  every  available  bit  of  space  to  the  utmost.2  It  was  in 
Leipzig  that  he  performed  these  'concertos'  (he  gave  them  the  name  then 
in  general  use  which  he  employed  for  his  own  cantatas);  for  the  parts 
contain  a  figured  bass  transposed  a  whole  tone  down,  a  sure  sign  that  it 
was  intended  for  the  organ  of  St.  Thomas'  or  St.  Nicholas'  (cf.  p.  207). 
The  composer's  appreciation  of  this  music  was  shared  by  his  son,  Philipp 
Emanuel,  who  praised  it  to  an  unknown  correspondent  in  these  words: 
'The  elaboration  is  diligent  throughout,  the  counterpoint  especially  is 
flawless;  the  choruses  are  exceptional.' 

Ludwig's  cantatas  well  deserved  his  kinsmen's  interest,  and  it  is  to  be 
regretted  that  none  of  them  has  so  far  been  printed.  It  is  vigorous  music, 
full  of  strength  and  inspiration,  rich  in  variety,  and  imbued  with  a 
sensuous  pleasure  in  tonal  beauty.  The  treatment  of  the  voices,  particu- 
larly in  the  solo  numbers,  reveals  a  composer  who  has  studied  Italian 
models  (for  which  the  performances  at  the  Meiningen  court  offered  ample 
opportunities).  The  texts  are  based  on  the  Bible,  which  is  sometimes 
literally  quoted,  but  more  often,  according  to  prevailing  fashion,  freely 
paraphrased.  Prince  Ernst  Ludwig  of  Meiningen  may  have  been  respon- 
sible for  at  least  part  of  these  'madrigalian  sections.'  Each  of  the  cantatas 
is  destined  for  a  special  event  of  the  church  year,  but  their  texts  are  of 
a  general  character;  which,  as  Emanuel  points  out,  permits  their  use 
at  almost  any  time. 

1  This  information  was  given  by  Philipp  Emanuel  Bach  to  a  prospective  buyer  in  a 
letter  preserved  in  the  Berlin  Library.  17  of  these  cantatas  are  listed  in  BG,  41,  Appendix. 
The  1 8th  was  obviously  the  Trauermusik  for  Prince  Ernst  Ludwig  of  Meiningen.  Not  all  of 
these  autographs  of  Sebastian's  are  available  to-day.  12  cantatas  exist  in  full  score,  others 
in  parts  only.  The  score  we  have  of  the  Trauermusik  is  not  in  Sebastian's  hand,  nor  does  it 
seem  to  be  the  one  Emanuel  had  in  his  possession.  The  MSS.  of  Johann  Ludwig's  music 
are  to-day  to  be  found  in  the  libraries  of  Berlin,  Marburg,  and  Tubingen,  which  kindly 
supplied  the  author  of  this  book  with  photographic  reproductions. 

2  In  the  cantata  Gott  1st  unser  Zuversicht  Sebastian  fills  about  three-quarters  of  each 
of  the  first  three  pages  of  the  manuscript  with  the  opening  chorus.  The  remaining  quarter  of 
each  page  would  have  been  too  small  to  accommodate  the  8  lines  of  this  chorus;  accordingly 
he  filled  it  with  the  5  lines  of  an  aria,  which  is  actually  the  third  number  of  the  composition, 
being  separated  from  the  chorus  by  a  secco  recitative  (cf.  111.  XI). 


The  majority  of  the  cantatas  are  scored  only  for  the  traditional  string 
and  organ  accompaniment,  also  used  by  the  older  members  of  the  Bach 
family.  In  some  cases  oboes  are  added;  in  one  cantata  there  are  flutes  as 
well  as  oboes,  in  another  two  corni  di  silva  (a  literal  translation  of  the  Ger- 
man term  JValdhorn=French  horn)  and  an  oboe;  while  the  whole  of  the 
resources  at  his  disposal  are  employed  only  in  his  Funeral  Music  (cf.  p. 
107).  With  his  small  instrumental  body  the  composer  achieves  surprising 
effects  of  colour;  in  particular  he  gives  his  favourite,  the  violin,  ample 
opportunities  for  brilliant  display.  How  successfully  he  blends  vocal  and 
instrumental  timbres  is  shown  by  a  beautiful  duet  between  violin  and 
soprano  in  the  cantata  Ich  aber  ging  (Though  I  went).  Of  equal  charm  is  an 
aria  in  Ich  will  meinen  Geist  (I  shall  relinquish  my  spirit),  where  a  solo 
soprano  alternates  with  the  tone  of  horns,  oboe,  and  strings.  It  is  interest- 
ing to  note  (whether  this  be  the  work  of  the  composer  or  the  'copyist') 
that  both  score  and  parts  contain  many  indications  regarding  changes  of 
tempo  and  expression  as  well  as  the  directions  'solo'  and  'tutti.' 

The  longer  cantatas  (which  are  occasionally  divided  into  two  sections) 
begin  with  a  brief  full  chorus  displaying  a  rich  polyphonic  texture;  others 
have  as  their  initial  number  a  duet  or  a  simple  arioso  by  one  of  the  solo 
voices.  A  real  introductory  number  for  instruments  only  is  nowhere  to 
be  found,  although  a  few  measures  by  the  orchestra  usually  precede  the 
entrance  of  the  voices.  Ludwig  was  particularly  addicted  to  the  repetition 
of  these  instrumental  measures  as  an  introduction  or  postlude  to  the  last 
piece,  thus  giving  firmer  cohesion  to  his  works.  The  first  number  is 
followed  by  a  free  succession  of  secco  recitatives,  arias  (mostly  in  da  capo 
form),  and  duets.  Each  cantata  is  concluded  by  a  large  chorus,  usually 
consisting  of  three  sections:  a  short  and  powerful  harmonic  opening,  a 
polyphonic  middle  part,  and  the  final  chorale  which  is  intoned  by  the 
singers  in  plain  chords,  while  the  briskly  moving  instruments  of  the 
orchestra  provide  a  vigorous  accompaniment. 

The  emotional  content  of  the  text  is  vividly  reflected  in  the  music.  In 
the  cantata  Ja,  mir  hastu  Arbeit  gemacht  (Ye  caused  Me  pain),  Christ's 
suffering  is  poignantly  represented  in  the  sigh  motives  which  dominate 
both  the  introductory  arioso  and  the  final  chorus.  On  the  other  hand,  in 
Wie  lieblich  sind  aufden  Bergen  (How  beautiful  upon  the  mountains),  the 
atmosphere  of  bliss  and  remoteness  from  human  strife  is  charmingly 
expressed  in  a  sort  of  round  dance.  The  composer  never  misses  an  oppor- 
tunity for  dramatic  changes.  In  Ich  aber  ging  (Though  I  went)  ponderous 
chromatic  sequences,  inspired  by  the  words  'lying  in  thy  blood,'  are  inter- 
rupted by  vigorous  and  joyful  coloraturas  describing  the  text  'thou  shalt 


live.'  In  the  magnificent  Mache  dich  auff,  werde  Licht  (Arise  and  let  there 



H    >     J 

Unci  2 

Viol  I  1 

•7 — ^ —  — E — U*  1      t-JT~ 

fJ^f^  +  ^*£& 






jj„jp  » m 


be  light),  an  introduction  of  Handelian  vigour  (Ex.  20)  and  brilliant 
melismata  of  the  solo  voice  are  suddenly  replaced  by  an  adagio  at  the 

Ix  SI 



He-mx    S7'e    .  Tie 

denn.    sic  .  he  Tin  .  sitr.nis,  Fin  .  sier.m's 

words  'for,  lo,  darkness  covers  the  earth'  (Ex.  21).  The  effective  change 
in  tempo  is  enhanced  by  the  simultaneous  harmonic  descent  from  a  to  g. 


The  cantata  Gott  ist  wiser  Zuversicht  (In  God  is  our  trust)  is  built  entirely 

112  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

on  the  contrast  between  the  uproar  of  the  elements,  symbolizing  human 
sin,  and  the  Lord's  victory  over  the  storm's  fury.  It  reaches  its  climax  in 
a  sort  of  operatic  scene;  the  violins  express  the  violent  motion  of  the 
waves,  until  Jesus  (bass)  exhorts  the  dispirited  people  to  muster  courage 
and  silences  the  wind  and  sea  {Ex.  22).  Little  imagination  is  needed  to 
see  a  connection  between  this  dramatic  episode  and  features  of  Sebastian's 
Passions.1  (Cf.  also  111.  XI.) 

Occasionally  the  composer's  tendency  to  create  dramatic  changes  is 
detrimental  to  the  proper  development  of  the  musical  ideas,  and  creates 
an  atmosphere  of  unrest.  In  Die  mit  Thranen  s'den  (Those  who  sow  in 
tears  shall  reap  in  joy),  a  text  well  known  from  Brahms'  'Requiem,'  only 
4  measures  are  allotted  to  the  description  of  the  tears;  then  the  time  signa- 
ture changes,  the  composer  prescribes  allegro,  and  gay  music  illustrates 
the  reaping  in  joy.  After  5  measures  this  second  choral  section  is  succeeded 
by  a  contrasting  duet  of  soprano  and  tenor  on  'they  go  out  and  weep.' 
The  movement  concludes  with  a  repetition  of  the  two  initial  choral  pieces, 
with  the  result  that  this  comparatively  short  number  consists  of  no  less 
than  5  distinct  sections.  However,  such  deficiencies  are  rare;  in  most  cases 
the  changes  in  style  and  mood  are  not  so  numerous,  and  have  the  effect 
of  enhancing  the  work's  dramatic  vigour  and  vitality. 

The  most  attractive  features  of  Ludwig's  cantatas  are  a  beautiful 
melodic  invention  of  an  Italian  nature  and  his  engaging  colouristic 
effects.  His  style  is  predominantly  homophonic;  he  is  more  concerned 
with  variety  than  with  monumental  grandeur,  and  this  gives  his  cantatas 
a  patchwork  character  far  exceeding  that  in  Sebastian's  earlier  works  (cf. 
p.  209).  The  individual  numbers  are  usually  short,  and  there  is  often  no 
clear  demarcation  between  arioso  and  aria.  The  difference  between  Sebas- 
tian and  his  Meiningen  cousin  is  particularly  obvious  in  the  recitatives, 
which  are  calm  and  gentle  in  Ludwig's  cantatas,  lacking  the  vehemence 
and  poignancy  of  those  of  his  kinsman.  Everything  Ludwig  writes,  how- 
ever, sounds  well  and  makes  the  most  efficient  use  of  the  human  voice. 
To  achieve  full  clarity,  the  solo  voices  in  arias  and  duets  usually  take  turns 
with  individual  instruments,  while  the  full  orchestra  accompanies  only  the 

A  link  between  Ludwig's  cantatas  and  motets  is  established  by  his 

1  It  might  be  mentioned  in  this  connection  that  in  Ja,  mir  hastu  Arbeit  gemacht,  the 
bass  arioso  No.  4  depicts  the  flagellation  of  Christ  with  the  dotted  rhythm  used  for  the 
description  of  the  same  situation  in  the  contralto  arioso  'O  gracious  God'  of  the  St. 
Matthew  Passion.  Likewise  in  the  cantata  Und  ich  will  iknen  einen  einigen  Hirten  erwecken 
(Lo,  I  will  raise  up  a  shepherd)  the  tenor  arioso  No.  4  uses  this  rhythm  to  illustrate  the 
killing  of  the  sheep  by  the  wolf. 



Funeral  Music  composed  in  1724  on  the  death  of  Duke  Ernst  Ludwig. 
The  text  is  based  on  Psalm  116,  verses  16-19,  partly  literally  quoted,  partly 
freely  paraphrased.  As  the  composer  mentions  on  the  title-page,  the 
second  part  contains  verses  by  the  Duke  himself.  This  is  the  only  cantata 
by  Ludwig  written,  like  his  motets,  for  two  choruses.  Each  of  the  four- 
part  mixed  choruses  is  accompanied  by  an  individual  orchestra.  That  of 
chorus  I  consists  of  strings  and  harpsichord  only;  while  chorus  II  uses,  in 
the  first  section,  woodwinds,  strings,  and  harpsichord,  and  in  the  second, 
woodwinds  and  harpsichord,  to  which  are  added,  in  the  third  section, 
three  muted  trumpets,  and  timpani.  In  writing  this  composition,  Ludwig 
exerted  himself  to  the  utmost  to  offer  a  fitting  memorial  for  his  dear 
patron.  The  composition  is  not  only  much  longer  than  any  of  his  other 
cantatas;  it  exhibits  greater  dignity  and  even  stronger  expressive  power. 
Very  moving,  for  instance,  is  the  alternation  of  a  tenor  solo  with  the  full 
chorus  voicing  the  longing  for  the  heavenly  Jerusalem  {Ex.  23).  When 



the  tired  soul  finally  arrives  in  Paradise,  it  is  greeted  by  a  Hallelujah,  the 
jubilant  spirit  of  which  one  would  hardly  expect  in  a  funeral  cantata. 

Although  this  cantata  is  not  preserved  in  Sebastian's  own  hand- 
writing, it  may  be  presumed  to  have  been  among  his  collection.1  The 
double  chorus  in  12/8  time,  Meine  Bande  sind  ^errissen  (My  bonds  are 
broken),  concluding  the  first  section  of  the  Funeral  Music,  may  have  been 
in  Sebastian's  mind  when  he  wrote  the  first  chorus  of  his  St.  Matthew 

1  Emanuel  Bach  refers  in  the  aforementioned  letter  to  a  cantata  using  3  trumpets. 


114  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

While  Ludwig's  cantatas  consist  of  many  short  and  vividly  contrasting 
sections,  the  motets1  are  designed  on  a  large  scale.  Most  of  them  are  long 
and  substantial  works  of  a  dignified,  solemn,  and  festive  character.  The 
subjective,  almost  nervous,  style  of  the  cantatas  is  here  replaced  by  epic 

In  all  his  motets  Johann  Ludwig  displays  the  feeling  for  clear  and  well- 
disposed  musical  forms  that  might  be  expected  from  a  student  of  Italian 
art.  The  da  capo  form  is  frequently  used  for  large  sections  or  for  complete 
motets.  Gott  sey  uns  gnadig  (God  be  gracious  unto  us)  is  even  given  such 
spacious  dimensions  that  the  composer  is  unable  to  manage  with  ternary 
form.  He  doubles  it,  thus  producing  a  kind  of  rondo  form  with  three 
statements  of  the  main  idea. 

The  Meiningen  master's  motets  are  anything  but  easy  to  perform. 
He  expects  from  his  singers  tremendous  coloraturas,  a  big  range,  and  the 
faculty  of  hitting  difficult  intervals.3  Combined  with  this  is  a  purity  and 
nobility  of  melodic  line  usually  encountered  only  in  Italian  vocal  music. 
Two  choruses,  each  consisting  of  the  same  mixed  quartet  of  soprano, 
alto,  tenor,  and  bass,  are  Ludwig's  favourite  means  of  expression.  Even  in 
the  three  motets  which  are  written  for  six,  nine,  and  ten  voices  respec- 
tively,4 the  classical  combination  of  four  voices  always  provides  the 
foundation  for  the  tonal  structure. 

These  motets  are  predominantly  homophonic.  Ludwig  has  an  in- 
satiable urge  for  exploring  the  possibilities  of  tone-colour.  His  two 
choruses,  which  were  apparently  posted  at  a  distance  from  each  other,  toss 
the  musical  material  over  to  each  other.  Sometimes  they  alternate,  then 
again  they  overlap;  echo  effects  are  frequently  used,  and  the  scores  are 
filled  with  dynamic  signs.  Johann  Ludwig  likes  to  have  groups  of  high- 
pitched  voices  interchanging  with  low-pitched  ones,  large  bodies  of 
singers  with  small  ones.  In  Die  richtigfiir  sick  gewandelt  haben  (Those  who 

1  Like  the  cantatas,  most  of  the  motets  remained  in  manuscript.  They  are  preserved 
mainly  in  the  Berlin  Library.  Only  a  single  one,  Uns  ist  ein  Kind  geboren  (Unto  us  a  child  is 
born)  is  available  in  a  modern  score.  The  editor,  Rudolf  Moser,  by  adding  a  third  chorus 
to  the  two  choruses  of  Ludwig  Bach,  introduced  a  contrast  between  solo  and  tutti  voices 
which  is  alien  to  the  original. 

2  An  exception  is  provided  by  Die  richtig  fur  sich  gewandelt  haben  (Those  who 
walked  in  righteousness)  which  prescribes  no  less  than  io  changes  of  time  signature,  thus 
creating  an  atmosphere  of  resdessness. 

3  The  motet  Gedenke  meiner,  mein  Gott  (Remember  me,  O  my  God)  repeatedly 
prescribes  a  descending  seventh  interval  in  the  soprano,  and  in  the  bass  a  descending  octave 
immediately  followed  by  an  additional  descending  fifth. 

4  They  are  Unser  Triibsal  (Our  light  affliction),  Gott  sey  uns  gnadig,  and  Die  richtig 
fur\sich  gewandelt  haben. 


walked  in  righteousness),  a  third  chorus  of  two  voices  only  is  prescribed 
merely  to  achieve  a  contrast  of  timbre,  since  of  the  ten  voices  in  the  score 
never  more  than  eight  are  used  at  the  same  time,  and  frequently  as  few  as 
two  or  four. 

Even  in  the  comparatively  infrequent  polyphonic  sections,  such  as  the 
eight-part  fugue  in  Uns  ist  ein  Kind  geboren  (Unto  us  a  child  is  born), 
harmonic  beauty  is  not  neglected.  There  is  a  luxuriant  richness  of  tone  in 
this  music  which  reminds  us  of  the  Catholic  Church  compositions  of  a 
Durante  or  Caldara. 

Johann  Ludwig  did  not  follow  the  custom  of  the  time  in  using  the 
chorale  as  a  cantus  firmus  in  his  motets.  The  interweaving  of  Biblical  text 
and  Protestant  hymn  by  which  Johann  Christoph,  Johann  Michael,  and 
most  of  all  Johann  Sebastian,  obtained  such  powerful  effects  is  foreign  to 
his  style.  His  motets  are  based  mainly  on  the  Scriptures  and  it  is  only  near 
the  end  that  he  introduces  a  simply  harmonized  hymn,  often  of  consider- 
able length  and  with  many  stanzas.  Only  in  exceptional  cases  does  he 
approach  the  cantus  firmus  technique.  In  the  magnificent  Gott  sey  uns 
gnddig,  a  bass  voice,  moving  in  majestically  extended  long  notes,  utters 
the  ascending  and  descending  scales  of  B  flat  supporting  the  agitated 
dialogue  of  the  two  choruses.  The  strong  effect  of  this  scale,  which  is 
reiterated  twice  in  the  course  of  the  motet,  is  enhanced  by  the  unbending 
rigidity  of  a  pedal  point  on  the  note  F,  introduced  between  the  two 
entrances  of  the  scale.  The  text  of  the  motet  includes  these  words:  'The 
Lord  make  His  face  shine  upon  us.'  It  seems  likely  that  the  rows  of 
ascending  and  descending  notes  symbolize  the  permanent  interrelation 
between  heaven  and  earth  as  expressed  in  the  story  of  Jacob's  ladder: 

And  he  dreamed,  and  behold  a  ladder  set  up  on  the  earth,  and  the  top  of  it  reached  to 
heaven:  and  behold  the  angels  of  God  ascending  and  descending  on  it  (Genesis  xxviii,  12). 

In  the  motet  Uns  ist  ein  Kind  geboren,  based  on  Isaiah  ix,  6,  at  the 
words  'And  the  government  shall  be  upon  His  shoulder'  the  basses  and 
tenors  of  both  choruses  introduce  in  long  extended  notes  a  melody  {Ex. 
24)  which  is  strongly  reminiscent  of  the  Gregorian  chant  of  the  Magnificat 

(tertii  toni).  Later,  at  the  words  'And  His  name  shall  be  called  wonderful, 
counsellor,'  a  similar  tune  is  sustained  by  the  soprano  as  if  angels'  voices 
were  intoning  it. 



As  in  his  cantatas,  so  in  his  motets  Ludwig  Bach  reveals  himself  as  a 
master  of  expressive  power,  imbued  with  dramatic  tension.  Gedenke 
meiner,  mein  Gott  (Remember  me,  O  my  God),  begins  quietly  in  g  with 
full  chords.  Gradually  the  motion  increases  and  with  it  the  excitement, 
until  an  outcry  is  heard  at  the  words:  'My  God!'  {Ex.  25).  The  third 

ge  .  den ....  Tee 

.  7I#T,  7rc«m 


inversion  of  the  dominant  seventh  chord  which  the  composer  uses  here 
was  not  common  at  that  time.  Of  equal  audacity  is  the  motet  Sei  nun 
wieder  iiifrieden  (Return  unto  thy  rest).  At  the  words:  Tor  Thou  hast 
delivered  my  soul  from  death,  my  eyes  from  tears,'  the  prevalent  key  of 
G  changes  suddenly  to  g  to  illustrate  the  word  'death.'  Chromatic  pro- 
gressions represent  the  tears,  and  eventually  the  section  comes  to  a  tired, 
almost  exhausted  ending  on  the  chord  of  F  sharp. 

The  motets  deal  with  happiness  and  bliss  more  frequently  than  with 
pain  and  suffering;  and  to  describe  the  former  emotions  Ludwig  Bach 
uses  the  same  type  of  joyful  coloraturas  that  most  composers  of  his  time, 
including  Johann  Sebastian,  employ.  He  likes  to  emphasize  their  effect  by 
giving  the  quickly  moving  melismata  to  one  group  of  voices  while  others 
accompany  with  massive  chords  {Ex.  26).  Particularly  impressive  is  a 

Treu  .  de,      mt1 .  nt,    77iej.  ne 

(„2fas  isi  Tneine  Treudd',   Motet  ) 

passage  in  Ich  will  auf  den  Herren  schauen  (I  will  look  unto  the  Lord) 
where,   after   fast-moving   coloratura  passages,   the   soprano   and   alto 


suddenly  stop  and  with  a  shout  declaim  the  word  'hear'  for  six  measures, 
while  the  remainder  of  the  voices  with  grim  energy  repeat  'me,  me,  me' 
(Ex.  27);  the  realistic  vigour  of  this  effect  is  hard  to  surpass. 

(Jiear - -- -  - -) 

There  is  no  inferior  work  among  the  motets  of  the  Meiningen  Bach, 
and  many,  like  Gott  sey  wis  gnddig,  Ich  -will  aufden  Herren  sckauen,  Uns  ist 
ein  Kind  geboren,  Wir  wissen  (We  know),  belong  to  the  best  that  the 
period  produced  in  this  field.  The  author  of  this  book  hopes  to  present  in 
modern  editions  a  selection  from  Johann  Ludwig's  church  compositions,1 
a  venture  that  has  long  been  overdue. 

Only  a  single  instrumental  composition  of  Johann  Ludwig  Bach  has 
come  to  light:  an  overture,  with  a  following  suite  of  dances,  dated  171 5. 
It  is  written  for  stringed  instruments  and  continuo,  to  which  a  solo  oboe 
is  occasionally  added.  The  impressive  slow  section  of  the  overture  is 
followed  by  a  gay  and  energetic  fugue  based  on  the  theme  (Ex.  28).  Like 


other  compositions  by  Ludwig  Bach  it  shows  in  its  vigorous,  melodious 
and  straightforward  nature  an  almost  Handelian  character.  Among  the 
dance  movements  following  the  overture  two  'Airs'  are  most  interesting. 
The  first  exhibits  a  kind  of  trill  motive  running  through  the  parts  from 
the  solo  oboe  to  the  basses.  The  second,  a  gay  dance  in  6/4  time  (for 
which  Johann  Ludwig  had  a  predilection),  is  based  on  the  contrast  between 
the  questioning  of  a  single  instrument  and  the  answer  of  the  full  chorus. 

1  A  Passion  from  the  year  171 3  (cf.  Spitta,  I.e.,  I,  p.  572)  and  numerous  other  works 
by  the  master  have  probably  been  lost.  On  the  other  hand,  there  is  little  reason  to  assume 
that  the  three  Masses  which  were  tentatively  attributed  to  Ludwig  Bach  are  really  his 
work.  The  Mass  in  c  (BWV,  Anh.  26)  is  of  inferior  quality,  not  in  keeping  with  that  of 
Ludwig's  other  works.  The  Mass  for  double  chorus  in  G  (BWV,  Anh.  167)  published  in 
1805  as  the  work  of  J.  Sebastian,  seems  to  be  by  an  Italian  composer,  perhaps  Antonio 
Lotti,  as  Spitta  suggests  (I.e.,  II,  p.  509).  The  Mass  in  e  (BWV,  Anh.  166)  is  by  Nicolaus 
Bach  (cf.  p.  93,  footnote  3). 


A  merry  game  develops  in  which  not  only  the  oboe  and  the  violins,  but 
also  the  viola  and  the  basses  are  entrusted  with  the  sprightly  solo.  A  grace- 
ful minuet,  a  stately  Gavotte,  and  a  brisk  Bourree  form  the  rest  of  the 
movements;  they  make  us  deeply  regret  that  we  know  no  other  instru- 
mental compositions  by  this  master,  who  was  apparently  as  competent  in 
the  treatment  of  stringed  instruments  as  he  was  outstanding  in  his  vocal 




Heinrich  (6) 

J.  Christoph  (13) 
1 642- 1 703 

Johannes  (2) 

J.  Friedrich  (29)       J.  Michael  (30) 
1682-1730  1685-? 

Christoph  (5) 



J.  Christoph  (12)  J.  Ambrosius  (11) 

1645-93  i<545-95 

J.  Ernst  (25) 

J.  Christoph  (22)  J.  Jakob  (23)  J.  Nikolaus*  J.  Sebastian  (24) 

1671-1721  1682-1722  (?)  1683-?  1685-1750 

*  J.  Nikolaus  has  no  number  in  the  Genealogy,  as  he  died  at  an  early  age. 

in  the  northern  side-aisle  of  the  Georgenkirche  in  Eisenach  there  stands  a 
baptismal  font  erected  in  the  year  1503.  This  venerable  relic,  which  is  still 
intact  to-day,1  has  witnessed  many  significant  events  through  the  cen- 
turies, but  none  more  so  than  the  ceremony  on  March  23,  1685,  to  which 
the  pastor  still  refers  to-day  whenever  a  baby  is  christened  there.  On  that 
day  the  town  musician  Johann  Ambrosius  Bach  had  a  son  baptized  under 
the  name  of  Johann  Sebastian.  Of  the  two  godfathers,  one,  the  town 
musician  Sebastian  Nagel,  came  all  the  way  from  the  city  of  Gotha;  the 

1  It  remained  intact  in  spite  of  the  fact  that  the  church  itself  suffered  various  injuries 
both  outside  and  inside  from  air-pressure  during  bombing  raids.  According  to  information 
kindly  supplied  by  Eisenach  residents,  all  the  repairs  needed  to  make  the  beautiful  building 
fit  for  use  again  were  completed  by  195 1. 


120  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

other,  Johann  Georg  Koch,  was  a  ducal  forester  in  Eisenach.1  It  seems 
deeply  symbolical  that  Sebastian  Bach  was  made  a  member  of  the  Chris- 
tian community  in  a  church  steeped  in  German  tradition  and  legend.  At 
St.  George's  the  saintly  Elisabeth  was  wedded  to  the  Landgrave  Louis  IV 
of  Thuringia,  originator  of  the  Tournament  of  Song  in  the  Wartburg. 
From  St.  George's  pulpit  Luther,  on  May  3,  1521,  thundered  his  sermon 
of  defiance  after  returning  from  the  fateful  Reichstag  at  Worms.  But  even 
apart  from  such  historical  considerations,  the  church  meant  much  to  the 
Eisenach  Bachs  as  the  centre  of  their  musical  activities.  Now,  in  the 
building  in  which  the  greatest  of  the  older  Bach  generation  had  been 
serving  for  the  past  twenty  years,  the  member  of  the  family  who  was  to 
excel  him  was  being  baptized. 

No  definite  facts  are  known  about  Sebastian's  early  youth,  but  it 
seems  safe  to  assume  that  he  was  taught  to  play  stringed  instruments  by 
his  father,  while  his  uncle,  Johann  Christoph,  started  him  on  the  organ. 
When  he  was  8  years  old,  he  entered  the  Eisenach  Latin  school,2 
attending  it  at  the  same  time  as  two  of  his  brothers,  Johann  Jakob  and 
Johann  Nikolaus,  and  two  of  his  cousins,  Johann  Friedrich  (29)  (later  his 
successor  at  Miihlhausen)  and  Johann  Michael  (30).  The  pupils  usually 
started  at  the  age  of  7,  and  remained  in  each  successive  class  for  two  or 
three  years,  until  they  were  ready  for  promotion.  Sebastian  advanced  very 
quickly,  always  holding  a  place  slightly  higher  than  his  brother  Jakob, 
who  was  three  years  the  elder.  He  achieved  this  excellent  progress  in  spite 
of  frequent  absences,  amounting  to  59  school  hours  in  1694  and  103  hours 
in  1695.  It  was  probably  not  so  much  illness  as  musical  activities  in  the 
school  choirs  that  were  responsible  for  his  poor  attendance.  Educational 
and  musical  periods  often  conflicted  in  the  schools  at  that  time,  and  Sebas- 
tian,rin^spite  of  his  keen  interest  in  scholastic  subjects,  was  naturally 
among  those  pupils  for  whom  the  school  choirs  were  of  paramount  im- 
portance; he  advanced  rapidly  from  the  'Kurrende  choir,  which  sang  one- 
part  hymns,  to  the  Chorus  Symphoniacus  performing  motets  and  cantatas. 
Fortunate  was  the  congregation  of  St.  George's  to  be  able  to  enjoy  the 
Sunday  music  provided  by  the  Bachs,  with  Johann  Christoph  releasing 
magnificent  sounds  on  the  organ,  Ambrosius  performing  in  a  masterly 

1  Freyse  in  'Eisenacher  Dokumente  um  J.  S.  Bach'  thinks  it  probable  that  Ambrosius 
Bach,  who  also  lodged  for  several  years  with  a  forester,  was  a  member  of  the  Schiitiengilde 
(shooting-association),  founded  in  the  13th  century,  which  had  St.  Sebastian  as  their 
patron  saint.  If  the  assumption  is  correct,  it  would  prove  Ambrosius  Bach's  high  social 
standing  in  the  community. 

2  From  1544  the  school  was  housed  in  a  former  Dominican  monastery  built  in  1232. 
In  1707  the  institute  was  raised  to  the  rank  of  a  Gymnasium. 

J.    SEBASTIAN:    APPRENTICESHIP    (1685-I703)  121 

manner  on  a  stringed  instrument,  and  little  Sebastian  singing  in  a  lovely, 
pure  soprano  voice,1  joined  by  other  relatives,  who  were  all  intensely 
musical.  And  fortunate  were  the  Bach  children,  who  grew  up  in  this 
atmosphere  of  deep-rooted  and  natural  musicianship ! 

It  was  only  for  a  brief  space  of  time  that  Sebastian  was  granted  the 
happiness  of  so  sheltered  an  existence.  He  lost  his  mother  when  he  was 
9  years  old,  and  his  father  less  than  a  year  later.  Now  the  family  had  to 
help.  Both  Sebastian  and  his  brother  Jakob  were  admitted  to  the  home  of 
their  eldest  brother,  Johann  Christoph  (22),  organist  at  the  little  town  of 
Ohrdruf  situated  half-way  between  Arnstadt  and  Eisenach.  In  accepting 
them  Johann  Christoph  followed  the  Bach  tradition  of  mutual  assistance. 
We  can  imagine,  however,  that  the  offer  of  such  hospitality  was  not  easy 
for  him.  The  ties  of  blood  had  never  been  strengthened  by  a  home  life 
enjoyed  in  common,  for  shortly  after  the  birth  of  Sebastian,  Johann 
Christoph  had  left  his  parents  in  order  to  study  with  Pachelbel;  so  his 
young  brothers  were  really  strangers  to  him.  Besides,  he  had  married  only 
a  few  months  previously,  a  child  was  on  the  way,  and  the  stipend  paid  by 
the  Ohrdruf  Council  was  an  extremely  meagre  one.2  It  is  therefore  under- 
standable that  the  elder  of  Johann  Christoph's  two  charges,  Jakob,  after 
attending  Ohrdruf 's  Latin  school  for  a  year,  left  his  brother  in  order  to  be 
apprenticed  to  the  Eisenach  town  musician  who  had  succeeded  Ambrosius 
Bach.  Sebastian,  however,  stayed  on  in  Ohrdruf  for  five  years.  During 
this  time  he  contributed  to  the  household  expenses  by  earning  a  not  in- 
considerable amount  as  a  singer;3  but  once  again  such  work  did  not 
prevent  the  precocious  youth  from  a  brilliant  career  at  Ohrdruf 's  highly 
renowned  Latin  school.  His  promotions  followed  one  another  very 
rapidly,  and  Sebastian  was  usually  the  youngest  in  his  class  as  well  as  one  of 
the  highest-placed  pupils.  He  became  a  senior  at  14,  the  average  age  of  his 
classmates  being  17.7  years.  In  this  school,  which  he  attended  at  the  same 
time  as  his  cousin,  Johann  Ernst  (25),*  he  received  a  thorough  training  in 
Latin  and,  what  was  important  for  his  subsequent  religious  attitude,  in 
Lutheran  orthodoxy.  His  keen  mind  permitted  him  to  enjoy  the  intellec- 

1  Sebastian's  'fine,  penetrating  voice  of  great  range  and  high  singing  culture'  is 
mentioned  by  Forkel,  who  derived  his  information  from  Emanuel  Bach. 

2  He  received  45  fl.  a  year  plus  allowances  in  rye  and  wood.  In  1696  he  was  granted 
an  increase  of  10  fl.  after  he  had  refused  an  offer  from  Gotha. 

3  The  prefect  of  the  chorus  was  Johann  Avenarius,  whose  cousin,  J.  Georg  Schubler, 
became  Sebastian's  pupil  and  publisher.  Cf.  Giinther  Kraft  in  'Johann  Sebastian  Bach  in 
Thiiringen,'  1950. 

4  This  was  the  eldest  son  of  Johann  Christoph  (12)  of  Arnstadt,  twin  brother  of 
Ambrosius.  After  the  death  of  Johann  Christoph  in  1693  the  widow  sent  young  Johann 
Ernst  to  Ohrdruf,  where  she  had  relatives. 

122  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

tual  gymnastics  of  theological  dialectics.  This  predilection  was  to  develop 
later  into  a  hobby  probably  unique  among  composers,  that  of  collecting 
theological  books  and  pamphlets  and  reading  them  by  way  of  relaxation 
from  creative  work. 

Nevertheless,  school  work  could  touch  no  more  than  the  outer  fringes 
of  his  wide-awake  mind.  What  really  mattered  to  Sebastian  was  the 
thrilling  voyage  of  exploration  into  the  immense  domain  of  music.  He 
had  the  opportunity  for  storing  away  a  great  deal  of  practical  knowledge 
by  observing  the  construction  of  a  new  organ  at  his  brother's  church.  In 
this  as  in  all  musical  matters  Johann  Christoph  was  his  mentor,  a  guide  of 
high  quality,  trained  by  his  father,  Ambrosius  Bach,  and  by  the  great 
organist  and  composer,  Johann  Pachelbel.  It  may  be  assumed  that  he  was 
artistically  on  the  same  high  level  as  so  many  other  Bachs,  a  conjecture 
borne  out  by  two  entries  made  by  his  superior,  Superintendent  Kromeyer. 
When  Johann  Christoph  married,  Kromeyer  noted  in  the  church  register: 
'young,  but  artistic,'  and  when  the  organist  died  he  described  him  in  the 
death-register  as  'an  artist  of  the  first  rank.'1  According  to  Forkel,  Johann 
Christoph  taught  Sebastian  the  clavier;  but  we  can  safely  assume  that  he 
also  instructed  him  in  other  instruments,  as  well  as  in  the  elements  of  com- 
position. Young  Sebastian  absorbed  all  instruction  as  readily  as  a  sponge 
does  water.  His  thirst  for  new  information  was  unquenchable,  and  con- 
tinued so  throughout  his  life.  There  is  the  touching  story,  first  reported  in 
Mizler's  Necrology  of  how  Sebastian  stole  a  volume  of  music  by  leading 
clavier  composers  that  his  brother  had  denied  him  as  being  too  advanced; 
how,  lacking  candles,  he  copied  it  painstakingly  by  the  light  of  the  moon, 
thus  seriously  injuring  his  sight;  and  how  he  suffered  the  worst  possible 
blow  when,  after  months  of  toil,  he  was  found  out  and  deprived  of  the 
copy  he  had  made.  If  the  story  in  this  form  is  true,  it  would  make  Sebas- 
tian's eldest  brother  appear  a  singularly  unpleasant  person.  But  it  may  be 
that  he  normally  treated  his  brother  quite  decently,  and  that  it  was  only 
exasperation  with  the  young  genius's  unceasing  battery  of  questions  and  a 
sudden  jealous  awareness  of  Sebastian's  superior  gifts  that  provoked  this 
spiteful  outburst.  That  Sebastian  was,  on  the  whole,  not  treated  too 
harshly  in  Ohrdruf  is  apparent  from  his  subsequent  attitude  towards  his 
relatives  there.  He  dedicated  one  of  his  early  clavier  works  to  Johann 
Christoph  (cf.  p.  261),  and  repaid  his  elder  brother  by  giving  two  of  the 

1  Cf.  Ferdinand  Reinhold,  'Die  Musik-Bache  in  Ohrdruf,'  'Ohrdruf  Festschrift,'  1950. 

2  The  article,  which  appeared  in  Mizler's  'Musikalische  Bibliothek,'  was  written  by 
Philipp  Emanuel  Bach  and  Sebastian's  pupil,  Johann  Friedrich  Agricola,  and  is  one  of 
our  main  sources  for  the  details  of  Sebastian's  life. 

J.    SEBASTIAN:    APPRENTICESHIP    (1685-I703)  123 

latter's  sons  musical  training  in  his  own  house.  Yet  it  seemed  out  of  the 
question  for  him  to  remain  much  longer  at  Ohrdruf.  Johann  Christoph's 
home  was  becoming  more  and  more  crowded  owing  to  additions  to  his 
family;  while  the  school  on  the  other  hand,  unlike  other  institutions  of  its 
kind,  did  not  place  impecunious  students  in  the  houses  of  rich  citizens. 
Nor  could  Sebastian  have  recourse  to  the  expedient  of  joining  any  other 
member  of  the  family  for  further  training,  as  had  been  the  practice  in 
previous  generations.  The  number  of  Bach  musicians  had  been  sadly 
reduced  during  the  preceding  decades;  a  decline  that  had  provoked  Sebas- 
tian's stepmother  to  declare  that  the  family  was  dying  out.  Not  only  did 
Ambrosius  die  in  the  prime  of  life;  the  same  fate  befell  his  two  brothers 
and  his  cousin,  Johann  Michael.  So  Sebastian,  by  necessity,  had  to  break 
away  from  family  ties.  He  probably  did  not  mind  this  overmuch.  A  zest 
for  travelling  had  suddenly  broken  out  among  the  young  Bachs,  whose 
fathers  had  so  steadfastly  worked  within  the  narrow  confines  of  Thur- 
ingia.  Around  the  turn  of  the  century  J.  Nicolaus  (27)  went  to  Italy, 
J.  Christoph  (28),  and  J.  Ernst  (25)  to  Northern  Germany,  and 
Sebastian's  own  brother,  J.  Jakob  (23),  was,  before  long,  to  travel  as 
far  as  Turkey.  It  is  not  surprising,  therefore,  that  young  Sebastian  himself 
began  to  search  eagerly  for  an  opportunity  to  study  in  a  distant  part  of 

Luck,  or  fate,  would  have  it  that  a  new  Cantor  by  the  name  of 
Elias  Herda  had  recently  joined  the  Ohrdruf  school  Faculty.  Although 
a  Thuringian  himself,  Herda  had  as  a  student  held  a  scholarship  at 
St.  Michael's  in  the  city  of  Liineburg  in  Northern  Germany.  He  knew 
that  good  singers  were  in  great  demand  for  the  church's  exquisite 
Mettenchor,  which  consisted  of  12-15  musicians  who  took  over  the 
solos  or  led  the  choir  of  the  Ritterakactemie,  a  school  for  young  noble- 
men attached  to  St.  Michael's  whose  schedule  did  not  include  musical 
training.  The  choir  members,  according  to  the  statutes,  had  to  be  the 
'offspring  of  poor  people,  with  nothing  to  live  on,  but  possessing  good 
voices';  in  addition  to  free  board  and  tuition  they  were  entitled  to  a 
small  income. 

As  Herda  taught  music  at  the  Ohrdruf  school,  Sebastian  could  not  fail 
to  hear  of  his  teacher's  experiences  in  Liineburg.  The  boy,  once  he  learned 
of  such  a  fine  opportunity,  was  most  eager  to  grasp  it.  The  great  diffi- 
culties involved  in  travelling  200  miles  without  adequate  funds  did  not 
scare  him  in  the  least.  He  felt  quite  ready  to  exert  his  feet  to  the  utmost, 

1  The  files  of  the  Ohrdruf  school  mention  concerning  Sebastian  'Luneburgum  ob 
defectum  hospitiorum  se  contulit  die  15  Martii  1700/ 

124  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

and  to  limit  his  appetite  to  the  scantiest  rations,  if  this  could  bring  him  to 
an  institution  which  for  long  had  been  a  revered  centre  of  choral  singing. 
Fortunately,  a  schoolmate  of  his,  Georg  Erdmann,  was  interested  in  the 
same  project;  being  a  friend,  maybe  even  a  relative,  of  Herda's,  from 
whose  native  village  he  came,  he  succeeded  in  obtaining  the  Cantor's  full 
assistance  for  himself  and  Sebastian.  Herda  wrote  to  Liineburg,  and  his 
report  on  Sebastian  must  have  been  enthusiastic  indeed;  for  the  answer 
was  positive,  despite  the  fact  that  as  a  rule  St.  Michael's  only  accepted 
younger  boys  able  to  serve  for  a  longer  period,  or  youths  of  17  or  18, 
whose  voices  were  full-grown.  Thus,  early  in  March  1700,  two  eager 
youths,  Bach,  not  quite  15,  and  Erdmann,  aged  18,  set  out  on  the  arduous 
trek  to  Liineburg.  They  left  Ohrdruf  just  in  time,  for  we  see  from  the 
church  registers  that  soon  afterwards  a  terrible  epidemic  struck  the  little 

In  April  the  list  of  the  Liineburg  Mettenchor  mentions  Bach  among 
the  sopranos  as  a  recipient  of  a  monthly  payment  of  12  groschen.  This 
seems  very  little,  but  fortunately  it  did  not  constitute  his  whole  income; 
for  he  was  entitled  to  a  share  in  all  the  monies  earned  for  singing  in  the 
streets,  performances  at  weddings,  funerals,  etc.  As,  moreover,  his  domi- 
cile and  board  as  well  as  a  supply  of  firewood  and  candles  were  provided, 
his  financial  position  was  certainly  not  worse  than  it  had  been  in  Ohrdruf. 
As  to  the  educational  opportunities,  they  were  ideal  for  a  youth  with  so 
ravenous  a  musical  appetite.  Performing  at  Liineburg  differed  in  many 
ways  from  what  Sebastian  had  been  used  to  in  Ohrdruf.  The  church  of 
St.  Michael  itself  was  of  breathtaking  loftiness,  and  the  famous  High 
altar  with  its  centrepiece  of  pure  gold  interspersed  with  lovely  enamels, 
near  which  the  choir  had  its  position,  must  have  impressed  young  Sebas- 
tian as  deeply  as  it  did  many  of  his  contemporaries.  The  music  offered  was 
worthy  of  so  exquisite  a  setting,  and  in  its  great  variety  most  helpful  in 
providing  a  young  musician  with  a  thorough  knowledge  of  contemporary 
and  older  choral  literature.  Ever  since  the  first  Protestant  Cantor  had  estab- 
lished an  imposing  music  library  at  St.  Michael's  in  1555,  the  tradition  had 
been  faithfully  continued  by  his  successors.  The  Thuringian  Cantor, 
Friedrich  Emanuel  Praetorius  (1623-95),  in  particular,  had  done  a  great 
deal  in  this  respect,  with  the  result  that  the  collection  included,  besides  a 
huge  amount  of  printed  music,  some  1100  manuscript  compositions  by 
175  composers,  among  them  even  two  members  of  Sebastian's  family, 
Heinrich  Bach  and  the  great  Johann  Christoph.  Thus  the  church  had  huge 
resources  on  which  to  draw,  and  the  programmes  accordingly  included  a 

1  Cf.  Gunther  Kraft,  I.e. 

J.    SEBASTIAN:    APPRENTICESHIP    (1685-1703)  125 

wealth  of  fine  music  unknown  to  Sebastian,  but  with  which  he  became 
familiar  through  performing  it.1  Not  long  after  his  arrival  he  lost  his 
fine  soprano  voice.  This  did  not  mean  dismissal,  however,  as  young 
Joseph  Haydn  was  to  experience  in  a  similar  position  at  St.  Stephen's 
in  Vienna.  In  Liineburg  it  was  the  custom  to  let  the  scholarship  boys 
continue  as  best  they  could  as  tenors  and  basses.  In  Sebastian's  case, 
moreover,  his  various  excellent  qualifications  made  him  extremely  valu- 
able in  other  respects.  It  is  significant  that  just  in  the  year  1700  the 
church  employed  only  3  instrumentalists  (against  6  in  1660,  and  10 
in  1710),  and  15-year-old  Sebastian  was  probably  from  the  outset  ad- 
mitted because  of  his  usefulness  as  a  violinist  in  the  orchestra  and  as 
an  organist. 

Added  to  a  very  heavy  schedule  of  musical  duties  was  the  curriculum 
imposed  by  the  Michaelisschule,  a  Latin  school  for  non-aristocratic 
youths,  where  Sebastian  studied  religion,  rhetoric,  logic,  Latin,  and  Greek, 
mainly  under  Rector  Johann  Biische.  Since  the  teacher  was  an  orthodox 
Lutheran,  the  religious  foundations  initiated  in  Ohrdruf  were  greatly 
strengthened  and  were  to  remain  of  vital  importance  to  Sebastian  through- 
out his  life. 

While  the  scholarship  boys  had  to  attend  the  Michaelisschule,  they 
roomed  and  boarded  in  the  old  convent,  where  the  Ritterakademie  was 
housed.  In  some  ways  this  was  not  too  pleasant  an  arrangement;  for  the 
young  noblemen  were  apt  to  treat  the  poor  singers  scornfully,  and  to 
require  many  a  menial  service  from  them.  Sebastian,  however,  who  had 
not  been  exactly  spoiled  in  his  brother's  house,  cannot  have  minded  this 
overmuch;  and  he  was,  on  the  other  hand,  fully  aware  of  the  tremendous 
advantages  he  derived  from  living  close  to  these  aristocrats.  The  Academy 
was  a  centre  of  French  culture.  French  conversation,  indispensable  at  that 
time  to  any  high-born  German,  was  obligatory  between  the  students; 
and  Sebastian  with  his  quick  mind  became  familiar  with  this  language 
which  he  had  no  chance  to  study  in  his  own  schools.  He  attended  French 
plays,  and,  what  was  more  important,  he  learned  a  great  deal  about 
French  music.  At  the  academy  a  pupil  of  Lully,  Thomas  de  la  Selle, 
taught  dancing  to  French  tunes,  thus  introducing  the  fascinated  Sebastian 
into  a  new  world  of  music.  When  de  la  Selle  noticed  the  youth's  enthusi- 

1  Gustav  Fock  in  his  valuable  study  'Der  junge  Bach  in  Liineburg,'  Hamburg,  1950, 
considers  Spitta's  and  Terry's  assumption  that  Sebastian  copied  many  of  the  works  in  this 
collection  to  be  erroneous.  He  contends  that  the  music  was  pardy  the  private  property  of 
the  Cantor,  who  had  bought  it  from  the  estate  of  Praetorius,  and  that  it  was  probably 
housed  in  its  entirety  in  the  Cantor's  rooms,  to  which  a  pupil  of  the  school  would  hardly 
have  had  admission. 

126  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

astic  response  he  decided  to  take  Bach  to  the  city  of  Celle,  to  which  he 
was  attached  as  court  musician.1 

Celle,  residence  of  the  Dukes  of  Brunswick-Liineburg,  was  at  that 
time  ruled  by  Duke  Georg  Wilhelm,  who,  like  so  many  German 
sovereigns  with  small  domains  and  large  ambitions,  did  everything  con- 
ceivable to  create  a  miniature  Versailles  at  his  court.  His  French  wife  fully 
shared  his  enthusiasm  and  between  them  they  achieved  a  veritable  centre 
of  Gallic  culture  in  Celle.  French  Huguenots  who  had  fled  from  their 
country  were  sure  of  hospitality  there  and  enjoyed  the  French  musicians 
and  singers,  who  produced  an  unending  series  of  performances.  The 
Duke  could  certainly  expect  a  high  artistic  standard,  as  he  spent  huge 
sums  (for  instance,  some  14,000  thalers  in  1690)  on  his  music  and  theatre. 
It  is  significant  that  one  of  the  greatest  oboists  of  the  time,  Johann  Ernst 
Galliard,2  was  trained  at  the  Celle  court;  the  Duke  paid  his  teacher, 
Marechal,  100  thalers  a  year  for  instructing  the  promising  youth. 

We  can  well  imagine  what  the  visits  to  Celle  must  have  meant  to  an 
artist  with  a  mind  so  wide  open  to  all  new  experiences.  There  Sebastian 
became  familiar  with  the  idiom  and  style  of  Couperin  and  other  key- 
board masters;  he  heard  French  instrumental  music  and  listened  to  French 
organ  compositions  in  the  castle's  exquisite  Renaissance  chapel  with  its 
jewel  of  a  small  organ.  Various  copies  made  by  him3  testify  to  the  eager- 
ness with  which  he  applied  himself  to  these  studies. 

It  was  a  stroke  of  luck  that  Sebastian  happened  to  go  to  Celle  at  that 
particular  time;  a  few  years  later,  the  artistic  Duke  Georg  Wilhelm  died, 
the  orchestra  was  dismissed,  and  the  little  court  ceased  to  be  a  centre  of 
French  music. 

In  Ltineburg,  besides  de  la  Selle  there  were  other  interesting  persons 
living  in  the  convent  which  housed  the  Academy.  In  1701  the  excellent 
organ  builder,  Johann  Balthasar  Held,  stayed  there  in  order  to  undertake 
repairs  to  St.  Michael's  organ.  With  what  interest  must  Sebastian  have 
watched  him,  and  listened  to  the  reports  about  the  outstanding  instru- 

1  Fock,  I.e.,  has  succeeded  in  establishing  in  the  person  of  de  la  Selle,  employed  both 
in  the  Ritterakademie  and  at  Celle,  the  person  most  likely  to  have  been  responsible  for 
Sebastian's  admission  to  the  court  of  Celle,  about  which  the  Necrolog  reports.  None  of 
the  previous  theories  sounded  very  convincing.  Pirro  assumed  that  Bach  was  introduced 
by  the  court  physician,  Scott,  son-in-law  of  Liineburg's  mayor,  Reinbeck;  Spitta  saw  the 
link  in  the  Celle  town  organist,  Brinckhorst,  with  whom  Bach  had  contact  after  1703, 
while  Wolffheim  pointed  to  the  trumpeter,  Jan  Pack,  in  the  Duke's  service,  who  might 
have  been  a  kinsman. 

2  Galliard  was  subsequently  court  conductor  in  London,  and  Handel's  predecessor. 

3  E.g.  the  suites  by  Nicolas  de  Grigny  and  Charles  Dieupart,  and  the  former's 
'Livre  d'orgue.' 

J.    SEBASTIAN:    APPRENTICESHIP    (1685-1703)  I27 

ments  in  Liibeck  and  Hamburg,  on  which  Held  had  worked !  Young  Bach 
was  thus  able  to  add  further  to  his  store  of  knowledge  regarding  the  con- 
struction of  organs — a  field  in  which  he  was  later  to  become  the  greatest 

Perhaps  even  more  important  than  all  these  contacts  was  the  one  estab- 
lished with  Georg  Bohm,1  organist  of  Liineburg's  Johanneskirche.  It 
seems  indeed  a  very  friendly  gesture  of  Providence  that  this  distinguished 
Thuringian  should  have  settled  down  in  Liineburg  in  1698,  thus  being 
available  to  young  Sebastian  when  he  arrived  in  the  northern  town  two 
years  later.  Bohm,  born  in  1661  in  a  village  near  Ohrdruf,  naturally  had 
various  links  with  the  Bachs.  He  probably  attended  the  very  school  at 
Ohrdruf  that  Sebastian  had  just  left;  later  he  went  to  the  Gotha  Latin 
school  with  a  kinsman  of  Sebastian,  and  he  attended  the  University  of 
Jena  together  with  three  men,  who  subsequently  became  Sebastian's 
teachers  at  Ohrdruf.  Thus  it  was  not  difficult  for  the  youth  to  gain  access 
to  the  great  organist  and  composer.  The  connection  proved  most  fruitful, 
and  Sebastian's  early  organ  works  especially  clearly  show  him  under  the 
spell  of  his  compatriot  and  teacher.2  Before  he  came  to  Liineburg,  Bohm 
had  stayed  for  years  in  Hamburg,  and  Sebastian,  hearing  his  reports  about 
the  great  organist,  J.  A.  Reinken,  felt  irresistibly  drawn  to  this  city,  in 
order  to  hear  the  outstanding  artist,  then  77  years  old.  The  30  miles' 
distance  and  lack  of  funds  were  negligible  matters  once  Sebastian's  artistic 
curiosity  was  aroused.  He  walked  over  to  Hamburg  during  the  summer 
vacation  of  170 1,  and  so  great  was  the  wealth  of  impressions  he  received 
from  the  aged  organ  virtuoso,  and  from  another  master  of  the  Northern 
style,  Vincenz  Lubeck,  so  fascinating  was  Hamburg's  teeming  musical 
life,  with  the  great  Reinhard  Keiser  at  the  opera  house,  that  he  repeated 
the  trip  more  than  once.  How  he  managed  in  Hamburg  without  starving, 
we  do  not  know.  Perhaps  he  received  shelter  and  a  little  help  from  cousin 
Johann  Ernst  (25),  his  former  classmate  at  Ohrdruf,  who  had  also  gone 
to  Hamburg  to  improve  his  musical  knowledge. 

Thus  a  variety  of  circumstances  combined  to  give  the  young  genius 
an  abundance  of  different  musical  experiences.  With  passionate  eagerness 
he  absorbed  them  all — Reinken's  and  Lubeck's  virtuosity;  the  Hamburg 

1  The  connection  with  another  Liineburg  organist,  Johann  Jakob  Low(e), 
conjectured  by  Spitta  and  Terry,  seems  of  minor  importance  only.  Low  was  not  really  a 
Thuringian,  but  a  Viennese,  who  called  himself  'von  Eisenach'  because  this  was  his  father's 
native  town.  When  Sebastian  came  to  Liineburg,  Low  was  72  and  probably  not  interested 
in  a  young  singer. 

a  Fock,  I.e.,  contends  that  almost  all  the  organ  and  clavier  works  by  Bohm  which 
have  been  preserved  may  be  traced  back  to  copies  made  by  Sebastian. 



opera;  the  French  elegant  manieres,  Bohm's  individual  language;  the  old 
choral  music — until  they  all  became  an  integral  part  of  his  own  person- 
ality. Liineburg,  with  its  peculiar  location  near  two  important,  and  so 
very  different,  musical  centres,  was  indeed  an  ideal  place  for  Sebastian's 
musical  training.  At  the  same  time  nobody  could  have  displayed  a  fiercer 
determination  to  get  hold  of,  and  to  exhaust  to  the  uttermost  limit,  all  the 
golden  opportunities  that  were  within  his  grasp. 



(1703- i 708) 

Johannes  (2) 

Heinrich  (6) 

Christoph  (5) 

J.  Michael  (14)  =  Cath.  Wedemann       J.  Ambrosius  (11)  Georg  Christoph  (10) 





Maria  Barbara=J.  Sebastian  (24)        J.  Christoph  (22)       J.  Valentin  (21) 

1 684- 1 720 



1 669- 1 720 

J.  Bernhard  (41)  J.  Lorenz  (38)         J.  Elias  (39) 

1700-43  1695-1773  I705-55 

Cath.  Dorothea    W.  Friedemann  (45)    *    C.  Ph.  Emanuel  (46)     J.  Gottf.  Bernhard  (47) 
1708-74  1710-84  1714-88  1715-39 

*  The  twins  who  died  in  the  year  of  their  birth  are  not  specifically  mentioned  here. 

By  Easter  17021  Sebastian  had  finished  his  studies  at  the  Michaelu- 
schule  and  was  ready  for  a  University.  Attending  any  such  institution  with- 

1  The  assumption  of  former  biographers  that  Sebastian  stayed  at  the  Latin  school  in 
Liineburg  for  three  years  seems  unfounded,  cf.  Fock,  I.e.  Sebastian  had  already  started  work 
on  the  last  class  of  the  Latin  school  in  Ohrdruf,  and  in  view  of  his  former  scholastic  progress 
it  cannot  be  assumed  that  it  took  him  more  than  three  years  altogether  to  master  the  curri- 
culum of  the  senior  year.  What  he  did  until  he  found  a  position  in  1703,  and  where  he 
lived,  is  not  known. 

xii.  Corridor  in  the  Eisenach  'Bach  House.'  Oil-painting  by  Paul  Bach 

xin.  First  page  of  J.  Sebastian  Bach's  Cantata  'Es  erhub  sich  ein  Streit ' 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    ARNSTADT   (1703-1707)  129 

out  funds  would  have  presented  a  big  but  not  insoluble  problem  to  so 
energetic  and  resourceful  a  youth.  But  Sebastian  did  not  seriously  con- 
sider studying  at  a  University;  he  was  most  eager  to  start  musical  work  in 
earnest  and  felt  ready  for  any  position  that  might  come  his  way.  In  later 
years  he  may  have  regretted  this  decision,  as  in  18th-century  Germany 
attendance  at  a  University  made  a  tremendous  difference  to  a  musician's 
standing  both  socially  and  economically.  For  this  reason,  when  it  came  to 
his  own  sons,  he  was  anxious  to  give  them  a  University  education,  al- 
though there  was  no  doubt  in  his  mind  that  they  would  eventually  choose 
musical  professions.  But  as  a  youth  of  17  Sebastian  was  not  far-sighted 
enough  to  adopt  such  a  policy,  and  there  was  nobody  close  enough  to  him 
to  advise  him.  Where  to  look  for  suitable  employment  was  the  question 
that  now  arose.  Significantly  enough,  he  did  not  consider  staying  in 
Northern  Germany,  where  he  had  established  numerous  contacts,  any  one 
of  which  might  have  led  to  an  appointment.  For  purposes  of  study  and 
artistic  improvement  this  part  of  Germany  had  been  excellently  suited. 
But  when  it  came  to  settling  down,  he  decided  to  travel  all  the  200  miles 
back  to  Thuringia,  where  his  forebears  had  tended  the  musical  soil  for 
almost  two  centuries.  This  he  did  out  of  a  deeply  rooted  allegiance  to  the 
family  tradition,  and  out  of  longing  for  contacts  with  his  kinsfolk,  a 
longing  particularly  strong  in  one  who,  since  the  age  of  10,  had  missed 
normal  family  ties.  Apart  from  this  consideration,  there  were  also  practical 
reasons  in  favour  of  Thuringia.  There  the  very  name  of  Bach  was 
honoured  and  would  be  enough  to  secure  the  beginner  a  position.  The 
family  was  also  sure  to  lend  all  the  help  it  could,  just  as  Sebastian  was  to 
do  again  and  again  for  other  musicians  of  the  clan,  and  its  members  were 
often  in  possession  of  the  necessary  inside  information  regarding  a  vacancy 
which  sometimes  spelt  the  difference  between  success  and  failure. 

In  1703,  three  different  organist's  posts  were  due  to  be  filled  in 
Thuringia.  One  was  at  the  Jakobikirche  at  Sangerhausen,  the  organist  of 
which  had  died  in  July  1702.  That  Sebastian  applied  is  revealed  in  a  letter 
he  himself  wrote  some  thirty  years  later  to  a  Sangerhausen  Council 
member.  From  it  we  learn  that  after  all  the  votes  had  been  cast  in  his 
favour,  and  the  post  promised  to  him,  the  Lord  of  the  town,  a  Duke  of 
Saxe-Weissenfels,  had  interceded,  as  he  wanted  the  position  to  be  filled 
by  a  more  mature  musician,  Joh.  Augustin  Kobelius.  Naturally  the  Duke's 
protege  was  appointed,  and  Sebastian  had  to  content  himself  with  a 
promise  of  subsequent  favours  (a  promise  he  was  to  redeem  successfully 
for  one  of  his  sons). 

At  Eisenach,  also,  the  town  organist's  position  became  vacant  through 


the  death  of  Johann  Christoph  Bach  on  March  31,  1703.  Sebastian  must 
have  been  greatly  attracted  by  this  opening  in  the  city  of  his  birth. 
Whether  he  applied  for  the  position  or  not,  we  do  not  know.  At  all  events 
the  post  was  given  to  an  older  and  more  renowned  member  of  the  family, 
Johann  Bernhard  Bach.  A  more  promising  opportunity,  however,  seemed 
to  be  materializing  in  another  Bach  centre,  Arnstadt.  There  the  old  church 
of  St.  Boniface,  which  in  1581  had  been  devastated  by  fire,  had  been  re- 
built some  hundred  years  later  and  was  now  once  more  in  use  under  the 
name  of  the  Neue  Kirche.1  At  first  it  had  no  organ  at  all,  but  eventually 
enough  money  was  collected  to  start  building  an  instrument,  for  which 
an  organist  would  be  needed  before  long.  Early  in  1703  the  work  was 
nearly  completed,  and  Sebastian's  relatives  began  to  exert  themselves  on 
his  behalf.  Naturally  such  endeavours  could  not  be  rushed,  and  in  the 
meantime  Sebastian  had  to  earn  his  daily  bread.  He  therefore  took  the 
first  position  that  presented  itself,  entering  as  a  'lackey  and  violinist'  the 
small  chamber  orchestra2  of  Johann  Ernst,  a  younger  and  very  artistic 
brother  of  the  reigning  Duke  of  Weimar.  It  looked  as  though  Sebastian 
were  following  the  tradition  established  by  his  father  and  grandfather  (the 
latter  had  also  begun  his  career  at  Weimar  in  the  double  capacity  of  servant 
and  instrumentalist),  but  he  was  really  only  marking  time  until  an  organ- 
ist's post,  on  which  he  had  set  his  heart,  was  offered  to  him.  Meanwhile 
he  tried  to  play  the  organ  as  much  as  possible,  acting  as  deputy  for 
the  aged  court  organist,  Johann  Effler.3  This  was  not  only  a  valuable 
experience  for  young  Sebastian,  it  was  also  helpful  for  the  negotiations  in 
Arnstadt.  Martin  Feldhaus,  mayor  of  the  town  and  kinsman  to  the  Bachs 
as  son-in-law  of  the  town  clerk  Wedemann  (cf.  p.  35),  did  not  fail  to 
make  good  use  of  this  fact.  Indeed,  when  he  succeeded  in  having  the  18- 
year-old  Sebastian  Bach  invited  to  test  the  new  organ,  the  receipt  he  drew 
up  on  payment  of  Sebastian's  expenses  gives  the  youth  the  exaggerated 
title  of  'Princely  Saxonian  Court  Organist  at  Weimar,'  which  was  by  no 
means  in  accordance  with  the  facts. 

Testing  and  playing  the  new  organ,  young  Sebastian  had  a  chance  of 
revealing  his  stupendous  mastery  to  the  Arnstadt  citizens,  and  there  is  no 
doubt  that  he  swept  them  off  their  feet.  The  usual  procedure  of  inviting 
several  candidates  for  trial  performances  was  dispensed  with,  and  hardly 

1  In  1935  its  name  was  changed  to  Bach  Kirche. 

2  Sebastian  probably  received  the  position  through  the  intervention  of  a  member  of 
this  orchestra,  his  distant  kinsman,  David  Hoffmann,  who  was  a  grandson  of  the  Suhl 
town  musician,  Christoph  Hoffmann  (cf.  p.  74). 

3  Effler  had  preceded  Michael  Bach  at  Gehren  (cf.  p.  38)  and  succeeded  Johann  Bach 
at  Erfurt. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    ARNSTADT    (1703-1707)  131 

a  month  after  his  appearance,  Sebastian  received  a  contract  granting  him  a 
yearly  salary  of  50  fl.,  plus  34  fl.  for  board  and  lodging.1  This  income  was, 
as  organists'  remunerations  went  in  those  days,  an  excellent  one.  Heinrich 
Bach,  in  his  50  years  of  service,  had  never  received  so  much,  nor  was 
Sebastian's  eldest  brother  in  Ohrdruf  ever  to  earn  what  his  pupil  was 
granted  from  the  outset.  It  is  significant  that  Sebastian,  although  anxious 
to  work  in  the  same  capacity  and  in  the  same  place  as  his  kinsmen,  was, 
even  as  a  youth  of  1 8,  determined  to  build  up  his  life  on  more  favourable 
material  conditions.  Like  his  great  relative,  Johann  Christoph  of  Eisenach, 
he  felt  that  the  service  he  rendered  entitled  him  to  a  fair  subsistence  and, 
in  contrast  to  Johann  Christoph,  he  had  enough  self-assurance  and  driving 
power  to  convince  his  superiors  of  the  Tightness  of  his  claims. 

On  August  14,  1703,  the  new  organist  entered  upon  his  duties.  These 
were  not  extensive;  he  was  to  play  every  Sunday  from  8-10  a.m.,  every 
Monday  at  an  intercessory  service,  and  every  Thursday  from  7-9  a.m. 
Since  his  church  had  not  engaged  a  Cantor,  he  was  supposed,  although  his 
contract  did  not  specifically  mention  it,  to  train  a  small  choir  formed  of 
pupils  from  the  Latin  school  for  performances  during  the  Sunday  service. 
It  seemed  to  be  an  ideal  position  for  a  young  musician  who  needed  plenty 
of  time  for  his  own  improvement  and  creative  work.  Arnstadt,  a  city  of 
3800  inhabitants,  was  also  a  pleasant  place  to  live  in.  Its  many  linden  trees 
had  earned  it  the  name  of  the  'Linden-town';  the  gardens  surrounding  its 
castle,  with  their  flower-beds  arranged  in  patterns  of  beautiful  tapestries, 
their  grottoes  and  fountains,  were  considered  outstanding  in  Germany, 
while  the  Romanesque  Liebfrauenkirche  and  the  Renaissance  Town  Hall 
belonged  to  the  gems  of  Thuringian  architecture.  In  the  reign  of  Anton 
Giinther  II,2  various  prominent  men  were  assembled  at  the  small  court; 
among  them,  in  charge  of  the  numismatic  collection,  was  the  learned 
Andreas  Morelli,  who  had  formerly  been  attached  to  the  Paris  court.3 
The  court  orchestra  was  directed  by  Paul  Gleitsmann,  and  as  it  did  not 
consist  of  court  employees  only,  the  conductor  would  certainly  have 
secured  the  services  of  so  eminent  and  versatile  a  musician  as  Sebastian. 

In  addition  to  the  advantages  of  a  good  position,  there  was  the 
pleasure  of  renewing  contact  with  members  of  his  own  family.  Of  the 

1  Sebastian  was  paid  25  fl.  out  of  the  beer  taxes,  25  fl.  out  of  the  church  treasury, 
while  the  additional  34  fl.  were  granted  by  the  Hospital  'on  command  of  the  Princely 

2  He  was  elevated  to  the  rank  of  Prince  in  1697,  but  only  used  the  tide  as  late  as  1707. 

3  From  1689  to  1697  the  poet,  Salomo  Franck,  was  active  there  as  'government- 
secretary.'  Sebastian  was  to  meet  him  subsequendy  in  Weimar  and  set  various  cantatas 
of  Franck's  to  music. 


older  generation  there  was  only  Heinrich  Bach's  son-in-law  and  successor, 
Christoph  Herthum,  and  the  widow  of  Ambrosius'  twin  brother,  Johann 
Christoph.  But  of  Sebastian's  own  age  group  there  were  the  widow's 
three  children,  among  them  Johann  Ernst,  with  whom  he  shared  un- 
forgettable artistic  experiences  in  Hamburg;  and  there  was  Maria  Barbara, 
youngest  daughter  of  the  late  organist  of  Gehren,  Johann  Michael  Bach. 
Both  the  girl's  parents  were  dead  by  1704,  and  she  lived  with  her  uncle, 
Martin  Feldhaus,  and  an  aunt,  Regina  Wedemann,  in  the  house  of  'The 
Golden  Crown,'  where,  according  to  documents  preserved,  Sebastian  also 
boarded  for  several  years.  Sebastian  and  Barbara  were  of  approximately 
the  same  age;  both  had  been  reared  in  homes  where  music  was  considered 
of  paramount  importance;  and  both  were  orphans  drifting  along  without 
strong  personal  ties.  Each  could  lighten  the  other's  solitude  and  provide 
in  each  other's  lives  the  anchorage  they  both  needed.  No  wonder  the  two 
young  people  were  drawn  irresistibly  towards  each  other,  and  'The  Golden 
Crown'  witnessed  the  growth  of  an  idyllic  love  affair.  The  blood  relation- 
ship was  considered  too  remote  to  present  an  obstacle,  since  they  were 
second  cousins,  their  grandfathers  having  been  brothers.  Sebastian  and 
Barbara  planned  to  get  married  as  soon  as  his  position  was  secure  enough 
to  enable  them  to  set  up  a  home  of  their  own.  Several  years  were  to  pass, 
however,  before  this  plan  could  materialize,  years  which  were  not  too 
easy  for  either  of  them. 

There  were  certain  difficulties  involved  in  Sebastian's  work,  which  in 
course  of  time  assumed  larger  and  larger  proportions.  The  choir  he  was 
supposed  to  train  was  small  and  of  very  poor  quality.  As  the  'New 
Church'  was  the  least  important  in  Arnstadt,  it  was  inevitably  allotted  the 
worst  material,  while  the  good  singers  were  employed  in  the  other  two 
churches  of  the  town.  Not  only  were  Sebastian's  charges  mediocre 
musicians,  they  were  also  an  unruly  lot,  behaving  (as  the  City  Council 
complained  to  the  Consistory)  in  'a  scandalous  manner.'  To  achieve  good 
results  with  such  an  unco-operative  group,  a  mature  man  of  high  authority 
was  needed;  a  musician  like  Sebastian,  who  was  younger  than  some  of  the 
singers,  had  a  difficult  position  indeed.  These  complications  were  further 
aggravated  by  the  young  genius'  lack  of  patience  with  incompetent 
musicians,  and  by  his  temper,  which,  when  provoked,  could  assume 
violent  proportions.  Thus  his  intercourse  with  the  recalcitrant  group  was 
by  no  means  characterized  by  the  dignified  behaviour  to  be  expected  of  a 
servant  of  the  church.  After  two  years  of  unpleasantness,  things  came  to  a 
head  in  a  street  brawl  which  occurred  between  the  organist  and  a  particu- 
larity offensive  rowdy  by  the  name  of  Geyersbach.  The  latter,  by  three 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    ARNSTADT    (1703-I7O7)  133 

years  Sebastian's  senior,  happened  to  meet  Bach  on  a  dark  night  and 
attacked  him  with  a  stick,  calling  him  a  'dirty  dog'  because  the  organist 
had  made  fun  of  him  as  a  'nanny-goat  bassoonist.'  Sebastian  drew  his 
sword,  a  fight  began,  and  blood  would  have  been  shed  had  not  the  spec- 
tators intervened  after  sundry  holes  had  been  pierced  in  Geyersbach's 
camisole.  The  incident  made  Sebastian  even  more  disgusted  with  the 
choir,  and  gradually  he  stopped  working  with  it.  Various  unpleasant 
cross-examinations  by  the  Consistory  followed  (of  which  the  files  have 
been  preserved).  Again  and  again  his  superiors  urged  him  to  accept  the 
'imperfect  conditions,'  which  they  readily  admitted,  and  work  with  the 
choir,  but  he  stubbornly  persisted  in  his  point  of  view  that  the  contract 
did  not  provide  for  this  work,  and  that  it  should  be  entrusted  to  a  choir 

Maria  Barbara  must  have  worried  a  good  deal  over  this  conflict  be- 
tween her  beloved  and  the  authorities,  but  she  could  not  learn  too  early 
the  hard  lesson  that  there  was  no  pliability  in  Sebastian's  nature.  When  he 
considered  his  claim  justified,  he  would  fight  for  it  to  the  bitter  end,  even 
at  the  risk  of  endangering  his  own  position.  Indeed,  the  choir  was  not  the 
only  point  of  difference  between  the  youthful  organist  and  his  superiors. 
Soon  after  the  Geyersbach  affair,  Sebastian,  anxious  to  forget  his  personal 
problems  in  a  great  musical  experience,  asked  for  four  weeks'  leave  to  visit 
the  famous  organist,  Dietrich  Buxtehude,2  in  Liibeck,  and  suggested  that 
his  cousin,  Johann  Ernst,  should  act  as  his  substitute  at  the  'New  Church.' 
The  Consistory  well  understood  their  gifted  young  organist's  desire  to 
improve  his  art  and  gave  him  their  permission  to  make  the  trip.  So  Sebas- 
tian turned  again  towards  the  North,  this  time  travelling  a  distance  of  230 
miles.3  His  plan  was  to  attend  the  famous  'Evening  musics'  which  Buxte- 
hude conducted  at  St.  Mary's  on  five  Sundays  around  Advent.4  He 
arrived  in  Liibeck  just  in  time  for  these  events  and  found  that  the  reality 
actually  exceeded  his  highest  expectations.  Performances  on  such  a  scale 
(with  40  instruments  taking  part  in  addition  to  the  choir)  and  of  such 
perfection  Sebastian  had  never  previously  witnessed.  He  even  had  a 
chance  of  attending  the  stirring  'Evening  music'  held  in  memory  of  the 

1  It  seems  that  when  Sebastian  refused  to  co-operate,  the  training  of  the  choir  was  done 
by  Herthum's  son-in-law,  Andreas  Borner. 

2  He  had  probably  heard  much  about  Buxtehude  from  Bohm,  whose  work  was 
gready  influenced  by  the  Liibeck  organist. 

3  The  Necrolog  states  that  he  made  the  trip  on  foot,  but  this  seems  unlikely  because 
of  the  short  time  available. 

4  They  took  place  on  the  last  two  Sundays  after  Trinity  and  the  second,  third,  and 
fourth  Sunday  in  Advent. 

134  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

deceased  Emperor  Leopold  I,  as  well  as  the  celebration  of  the  new 
Emperor's  accession.  Sebastian  was  held  spellbound  in  Lubeck,  and  the 
idea  of  returning  to  his  post  at  the  end  of  the  four  weeks'  leave  did  not 
enter  his  mind.  He  did  not  even  trouble  to  write  his  superiors  an  apology 
for  his  greatly  delayed  return.  The  only  thing  that  mattered  was  to  absorb 
all  the  intricacies  of  Buxtehude's  art.  These  were  indeed  glorious  days  for 
Bach,  who  was  forever  making  new  and  exciting  discoveries  which  were 
to  be  most  fruitful  in  his  own  creative  work.  For  Barbara,  however,  far 
away  at  Arnstadt,  worrying  over  the  reaction  of  Sebastian's  superiors, 
they  may  have  been  hard  to  bear.  It  seems  not  unlikely  that  her  beloved 
was  so  engrossed  by  his  tremendous  artistic  experiences  that  he  did  not 
even  write  to  her.  But  he  did  remain  faithful;  for  when  it  was  hinted  to 
him  that  he  might  become  Buxtehude's  successor,  providing  he  married, 
according  to  custom,  the  master's  daughter,  Anna  Margreta,  then  30 
years  old,  he  declined,  although  the  position  at  St.  Mary's  must  have 
seemed  most  attractive  to  the  organist  of  the  smallest  church  in  Arnstadt.1 

It  was  after  an  absence  of  four  months  instead  of  four  weeks  that 
Sebastian  reappeared  in  Arnstadt.  Soon  the  congregation  noticed  a  change 
in  their  organist's  playing.  Encouraged  by  what  he  had  heard  in  Lubeck 
and  overflowing  with  new  ideas,  Sebastian  became  rather  unconventional 
in  his  accompaniments  of  the  hymns,  and  his  improvisations  between  the 
verses  seemed  never  to  come  to  an  end.  The  congregation  was  amazed, 
bewildered,  outraged  and  at  times  unable  to  stumble  through  the  chorales. 
Finally  the  organist  was  again  called  before  the  Superintendent,  Olearius, 
who,  after  reproaching  him  for  his  unauthorized  long  absence,  took  him 
to  account  for  the  'many  curious  variations'  he  was  inserting  into  the 
accompaniment.  Strict  orders  were  given  him  'if  he  used  a  tonus  pere- 
grinus  (a  strange  key)  'to  hold  it  out  and  not  quickly  to  pass  on  to  some- 
thing else  or  even,  as  he  liked  to  do,  to  use  a  tonus  contrarius  (a  key  con- 
flicting with  the  former  one). 

Though  furious  at  these  instructions,  Sebastian  had  no  alternative  but 
to  obey  them,  and  all  the  joy  went  out  of  his  work.  If  the  good  burghers 
wanted  a  dull  organist,  no  doubt  he  could  satisfy  them,  he  thought.  Hence, 
where  he  had  previously  done  too  much,  he  now  did  too  little;  and  this 
time  he  was  criticized  because  his  preludes  were  too  short.  So  it  went  on 
through  the  year  1706:  complaints  from  the  choral  prefect,  cross-examina- 
tions by  his  superiors,  and  ultimata  issued  to  the  organist,  who  promised 

1  Buxtehude  had  also  tried  unsuccessfully  to  win  first  Mattheson,  and  later  Handel, 
as  successor  and  son-in-law,  but  he  eventually  achieved  his  aim  with  J.  Christian  Schieffer- 
decker,  who  was  of  Bach's  age  and  accordingly  ten  years  younger  than  the  bride. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    ARNSTADT   (1703-I707)  I35 

to  answer  in  writing  and  never  did.  This  Arnstadt  position  certainly  did 
not  offer  a  suitable  basis  for  matrimony,  poor  Barbara  felt;  and  finally  she 
herself  was  the  cause  of  another  disagreement  with  the  Consistory.  Sebas- 
tian asked  her  to  come  to  the  organ  gallery  when  the  church  was  empty, 
and  sing  to  his  accompaniment.  This  she  did,  and  their  music-making  must 
have  delighted  them  both  and  further  strengthened  the  bond  between 
them.  But  the  aftermath  was  not  so  pleasant.  In  Arnstadt  nothing  remained 
a  secret  for  long.  Someone  had  heard  Barbara  singing,  tongues  were  set 
wagging,  and  Sebastian  was  again  summoned  by  the  Consistory  to  explain 
the  presence  of  a  'strange  maiden'  in  the  organ  gallery. 

By  that  time  the  organist  was  aware  that  he  would  have  to  look  for 
another  position.  Fortunately  a  good  opportunity  presented  itself  before 
long.  In  the  Free  Imperial  City  of  Miihlhausen,  the  highly  renowned  com- 
poser and  organist  of  St.  Blasius',  Johann  Georg  Ahle,  had  died  in 
December  1706.  Once  more  the  family  got  busy  to  secure  the  position  for 
Sebastian.  Maria  Barbara  was  related  on  her  mother's  side  to  the  Miihl- 
hausen Councillor,  Johann  Hermann  Bellstedt,1  and  it  was  he  who 
carried  on  the  negotiations  with  young  Bach.  His  recommendation  was 
probably  supported  by  the  Miihlhausen  organ  builder,  J.  F.  Wender,  who 
had  built  Arnstadt's  new  instrument,  which  Sebastian  had  tested  and 
approved  in  1703.  Thus  it  came  about  that  young  Bach  was  invited  to 
give  his  trial  performance  at  Easter  1707.  Again  he  overwhelmed  the 
congregation  with  his  superb  playing,  and  the  pattern  established  at 
Arnstadt  repeated  itself. 

The  authorities  were  truly  anxious  to  secure  his  services  and  were 
even  prepared  for  financial  sacrifices.  Asked  to  state  his  terms,  Sebastian 
requested  the  salary  he  got  at  Arnstadt;  and  although  Ahle,  in  spite  of  the 
esteem  he  had  enjoyed,  had  received  only  66  fl.  14  gr.  yearly,  the  new 
organist  was  granted  a  yearly  income  of  85  fl.  plus  the  amounts  of 
grain,  wood,  and  fish  allowed  to  Ahle.  The  Council  also  undertook  to 
send  a  waggon  to  Arnstadt  for  the  transport  of  the  organist's  belongings. 

In  June  Bach  again  appeared  before  the  Arnstadt  Consistory,  but  with 
very  different  emotions!  No  recriminations  were  uttered  this  time,  no 
evasive  answers  were  necessary  on  his  part;  he  merely  notified  the  authori- 
ties of  his  appointment  at  Miihlhausen  and  asked  for  permission  to  hand 
back  the  keys  of  the  organ.  Everything  went  off  smoothly;  none  of  the 
two  parties  expressed  their  relief  at  this  fortunate  solution  of  an  awkward 
problem,  and  young  Sebastian  in  voicing  his  thanks  displayed  for  once  all 

1  Susanna  Barbara  Wedemann,  aunt  and  godmother  of  Maria  Barbara  Bach,  had 
married  in  1680  Johann  Gottfried  Bellstedt,  a  kinsman  of  the  Miihlhausen  Councillor. 

136  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

the  courtesy  that  custom  demanded.  This  was  most  necessary,  for  the 
Consistory  had,  in  effect,  the  power  to  annul  his  appointment  by  not 
accepting  his  resignation;  and  he  knew  that  it  was  for  such  reasons  that 
both  his  father,  Ambrosius,  and  his  uncle,  Johann  Christoph  Bach,  had 
been  compelled  to  refuse  outside  offers  and  stay  on  in  Eisenach.  However, 
nothing  of  this  kind  happened,  and  the  Consistory  felt  friendly  enough 
disposed  towards  the  Bach  clan  to  appoint  as  Sebastian's  successor  his 
cousin,  Johann  Ernst,  though  with  one  significant  stipulation: 
Johann  Ernst's  salary  was  to  be  only  40  fl.,  less  than  half  Sebastian's 

Sebastian  was  now  22  years  old  and  anxious  to  end  his  bachelor 
existence.  Having  exchanged  a  good  position  for  another  equally  good, 
he  felt  able  to  take  care  of  a  wife  and  children.  If  he  still  had  any  fears 
about  the  extra  expenses  he  would  incur  over  the  wedding  and  the 
furnishing  of  a  modest  home  (responsibilities  which  he  might  have  to 
shoulder  alone,  as  his  fiancee  was  an  orphan  without  means),  such  fears 
were  dispelled  by  a  small  legacy  that  came  his  way  just  at  that  time 
through  the  death  of  his  uncle,  Tobias  Lammerhirt.2  At  first  Sebastian 
went  to  Miihlhausen  alone,  to  start  his  work  and  to  find  suitable  accom- 
modation; but  it  was  not  long  before  he  returned  to  Arnstadt  for  his  bride. 
On  October  17,  1707,  the  little  church  of  Dornheim,  a  village  near  Arn- 
stadt, witnessed  the  simple  wedding  ceremony  of  Sebastian  and  Barbara 
Bach.  The  choice  of  this  church  was  due  to  the  family's  friendship  with 
its  pastor,  Lorenz  Stauber,  who  himself  was  to  marry  Barbara's  aunt, 
Regina  Wedemann,  a  few  months  later.3 

So  Sebastian  Bach  assumed  the  responsibilities  of  a  married  man  at  a 

1  Johann  Ernst  (25)  retained  this  position  up  to  1728,  when,  after  the  death  of  his  kins- 
man, Andreas  Borner,  he  became  organist  of  Arnstadt's  other  two  churches  and  received 
a  salary  of  77  fl.  He  died,  almost  blind,  in  1739,  and  as  his  only  son  was  but  2  years  old 
at  the  time  the  organist's  position  which  had  been  held  by  the  Bach  clan  ever  since  1641 
(by  first  Heinrich  Bach,  then  his  son-in-law  Herthum,  the  latter's  son-in-law  Borner, 
and  finally  Johann  Ernst  Bach)  was  lost  to  the  family.  A  daughter  of  Johann  Ernst  lived 
on  at  Arnstadt  up  to  her  death  in  1792,  the  last  member  of  the  family  to  be  traced  in  this 

2  By  a  curious  coincidence  another  legacy  reached  him  fourteen  years  later,  when  he 
was  about  to  conclude  a  second  marriage.  This  time  it  came  from  the  widow  of  Tobias 

3  Stauber's  first  wife  was  a  Hoffmann,  probably  a  kinswoman  of  the  Bachs.  The 
wedding  of  Stauber  and  Regina  Wedemann  occurred  on  June  5,  1708,  and  was  attended 
by  the  young  Bach  couple.  It  is  probable  that  Sebastian's  wedding  cantata,  Der  Herr 
denket  an  uns,  was  written  for  this  occasion.  The  friendship  between  the  Staubers  and  Bach 
was  maintained  even  after  the  latter's  removal  to  Leipzig.  When  Regina  died  in  1731,  her 
last  will  provided  a  legacy  for  the  Thomas  Cantor  and  his  second  wife. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    MUHLHAUSEN    (1707-1708)  137 

very  young  age.  This  was  entirely  in  keeping  with  the  family  tradition, 
although  it  seems  early  to  us  who  are  used  to  consider  freedom  from 
personal  ties  and  responsibilities  as  one  of  the  requirements  for  the  develop- 
ment of  a  young  genius.  But  such  freedom  was  not  what  Sebastian  needed. 
To  him,  who  at  the  age  of  10  had  been  deprived  of  his  parents,  nothing 
seemed  so  desirable  as  a  peaceful  home  where  he  really  belonged.  If  ever 
a  genius  was  suited  to  the  state  of  matrimony,  it  was  Sebastian  Bach.  He 
chose  his  partner  with  deep  wisdom  (such  as  neither  Haydn  nor  Mozart 
possessed),  and  made  of  each  of  his  two  marriages  a  tremendous  success. 
Home  meant  for  him  not  only  material  comforts,  but  the  sharing  of  his 
most  profound  interests.  His  spouse  had  to  be  more  than  a  good  house- 
keeper; she  had  to  be  a  musician,  able  fully  to  appreciate  her  husband's 
work.  Sebastian's  second  wife  was  a  professional  singer.  Although  no 
evidence  has  come  down  to  us  about  Maria  Barbara's  musicianship  (apart 
from  her  singing  in  the  Arnstadt  church)  we  can  reasonably  assume  that 
someone  who  was  descended  from  a  line  of  outstanding  artists,  and  who 
became  the  mother  of  two  of  Sebastian's  most  talented  sons,  was  also  a 
real  helpmate  to  her  husband  in  musical  matters. 

The  newly-wed  pair  spent  a  few  days  with  their  kinsfolk  in  Erfurt, 
and  then  travelled  to  Muhlhausen,  where  Sebastian  threw  himself  vigor- 
ously into  his  new  duties. 

The  position  at  St.  Blasius'  conferred  greater  distinction  than  that  at 
Arnstadt's  least  important  church.  The  city  of  Muhlhausen  had  harboured 
a  number  of  eminent  musicians,  and  during  the  past  fifty  years  St.  Blasius' 
in  particular  had  possessed  quite  outstanding  organists  in  Johann  Rudolph 
Ahle  and  his  son,  Johann  Georg.  Sebastian  could  not  fail  to  be  stimulated 
by  the  standard  set  by  such  renowned  predecessors.  All  his  aspirations  for 
the  improvement  of  church  music,  which  had  lain  dormant  in  the  un- 
congenial Arnstadt  atmosphere,  now  manifested  themselves  with  ele- 
mental force.  The  way  he  shouldered  his  new  responsibilities  would  have 
amazed  his  former  employers.  Once  more  the  contract  merely  stipulated 
that  he  should  play  the  organ  at  all  the  services  held  at  St.  Blasius'.  This 
time,  however,  such  work  was  by  no  means  sufficient  for  Sebastian.  He 
felt  responsible  for  the  entire  music  offered  in  his  church,  and,  further- 
more, he  even  took  a  lively  interest  in  the  musical  progress  of  the  neigh- 
bouring villages.  At  St.  Blasius'  he  found  the  repertory  somewhat  old- 
fashioned,  as  the  Ahles  had  mainly  favoured  the  simple  chorale-like  sacred 
aria  with  instrumental  ritornelli,  neglecting  the  type  of  cantata  de- 
veloped by  Buxtehude  and  other  North  German  masters.  This  had  of 
course  to  be  changed,  and  so  Sebastian,  together  with  his  pupil,  Johann 

138  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

Martin  Schubart,  diligently  set  about  copying  suitable  works  for  the 
church  library.  He  sometimes  found  performances  more  to  his  taste  in  the 
villages,  and  in  his  undiplomatic  manner  did  not  hesitate  to  say  so,  which 
was  not  exactly  pleasing  to  the  Miihlhausen  citizens.  He  rejoiced  in  helping 
the  village  musicians  and  even  provided  some  of  his  own  compositions 
for  their  services,  as  he  also  did  for  the  requirements  of  Miihlhausen.  For 
the  solemn  inauguration  in  February  1708  of  the  new  burgomasters  and 
members  of  the  Council,  he  wrote  the  'congratulatory  motet'  Gott  ist  mein 
Konig,  making  splendid  use  of  what  he  had  learned  from  Buxtehude.  The 
congregation  could  not  help  being  thrilled  by  this  solemn  music,  and  his 
employers  were  so  pleased  that  they  had  the  work  printed.1  The  Coun- 
cillors' appreciation  of  their  new  organist  was  further  heightened  when  he 
handed  them  soon  afterwards  a  careful  survey  of  the  deficiencies  of  his 
organ  with  advice  on  how  to  repair  the  instrument.  So  convincing  was  the 
craftsmanship  and  intrinsic  knowledge  revealed  in  each  of  his  suggestions 
that  they  were  accepted  without  demur,  and  an  organ  builder  was  en- 
trusted with  their  execution.  Sebastian's  specifications  have  been  preserved, 
and  from  them  we  may  reconstruct  the  young  organist's  idea  of  a  good 
instrument.  He  liked  the  Baroque  arrangement  of  the  organ  stops  in 
groups,  the  members  of  which  are  closely  interrelated  in  construction  and 
tone-quality,  while  each  group  is  sharply  contrasted  from  the  remainder  in 
sonority  and  timbre.  As  he  wished  to  increase  the  possibilities  of  such 
contrasts  in  dynamic  power  and  tone-colour,  he  wanted  the  addition  of  a 
third  manual  to  the  two  manuals  and  pedal  of  the  Miihlhausen  organ,  as 
well  as  an  increase  in  the  number  of  bellows.2  Moreover,  'as  a  novel  in- 
clusion' he  urged  the  building  of  a  set  of  chimes  operated  from  the  pedal, 
which  he  had  devised  himself.  It  is  interesting  to  note  that  the  organ  he 
suggested  for  Miihlhausen  had  much  in  common  with  the  remodelled 
instrument  of  the  Eisenach  Georgenkirche,  which  Johann  Christoph  Bach 
had  planned  with  so  much  care  (cf.  p.  36).  Although  the  reconstruction 

1  Although  such  'congratulatory  motets'  were  often  published,  this  was  by  no  means 
the  rule.  In  the  years  1710  to  1713,  for  instance,  in  Miihlhausen,  the  text  but  not  the  music 
was  printed. 

2  Though  this  is  generally  done,  it  does  not  seem  justified  to  deduce  from  a  document 
which  Bach  drafted  at  the  age  of  23  the  mature  master's  conception  of  the  ideal  organ. 
It  appears  that  the  Leipzig  Bach  tried  to  avoid  strong  contrasts  in  the  timbre  of  the  stops 
and  aimed  rather  at  mixing  and  combining  them.  He  worked  towards  their  arrangement 
in  two  groups:  the  clear  and  bold  open  diapasons  and  the  softer,  less  distinct  accompanying 
stops  suited  for  the  execution  of  the  continuo.  In  this  way  the  solo  and  tutti  arrangement 
of  the  concerto  (a  form  which  was  of  paramount  importance  for  Bach's  later  organ 
works)  also  found  expression  in  his  conception  of  the  ideal  organ.  Cf.  W.  Gurlitt,  'J.  S. 
Bach,'  3rd  ed.,  1949. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    MUHLHAUSEN    (1707-I708)  139 

work  at  Eisenach  was  not  begun  until  a  year  after  Sebastian  left,  he 
doubtless  had  heard  all  the  details  of  it  from  his  relatives,  and  had  perhaps 
even  examined  the  instrument  itself  on  its  completion  in  1707.  That  he 
let  Johann  Christoph's  plan  influence  him  so  strongly  in  rebuilding  his 
own  organ  shows  again  how  firm  were  the  artistic  ties  that  bound  him  to 
his  great  forebears. 

Although  his  advice  regarding  the  organ  was  fully  heeded  in  Miihl- 
hausen,  troubles  for  the  young  organist  arose  in  other  respects.  Sebastian's 
pastor,  Superintendent  Frohne,  had  decided  leanings  towards  Pietism,  that 
new  trend  towards  a  more  subjective  faith  that  had  been  born  out  of  a 
healthy  reaction  against  the  increasing  petrifaction  and  narrow-mindedness 
of  the  Lutheran  doctrine  as  preached  in  the  orthodox  churches.  The  con- 
flict was  somewhat  akin  to  that  which  had  once  existed  between  early 
Protestantism  and  the  Catholic  Church.  Pietism  stressed  the  importance 
of  the  Christian  life  against  that  of  the  mechanical  adoption  of  dogma.  In 
their  striving  for  a  religious  revival,  the  Pietists  shunned  much  that  played 
an  important  role  in  the  Protestant  service.  Some  declared  the  Bible  word 
preached  in  church  to  be  'dead,'  unless  its  meaning  found  a  deep  response 
in  the  listener's  soul;  music,  too,  could  become  dangerous  if  it  had  too 
strong  an  effect  on  the  senses.  Thus  many  Pietistic  theologians  fought 
energetically  against  the  inclusion  of  concerted  music  in  the  service,1 
decrying  it  as  'sirensongs  disturbing  meditation,  mixing  the  world's 
vanity  with  the  sacred,  and  corrupting  the  gold  of  divine  truth.'2  It  was  an 
anti-artistic  attitude  very  much  like  that  of  the  Puritans.  Pastor  Frohne 
may  have  been  responsible  for  the  musical  austerity  prevalent  at  St. 
Blasius'  before  Sebastian  arrived,  and  when  he  found  his  organist  eagerly 
bent  on  remedying  such  shortcomings,  he  must  have  hesitated  to  support 
him.  Nor  can  we  assume  that  the  congregation  followed  the  newcomer's 
lead  too  readily.  Reforms  are  nowhere  accepted  by  the  majority  without 
demurring,  and  Miihlhausen  certainly  was  no  exception  to  the  rule.  What 
they  had  been  accustomed  to  hear  in  the  33  years'  service  of  Johann  Georg 
Ahle  (who,  after  all,  was  a  native  of  Miihlhausen,  and  not  just  an  outsider 
like  this  young  Bach)  was  good  enough  for  them,  they  felt.  So  quite  a  few 
rejected  the  organist's  innovations  as  'too  worldly'  and  'carnal.'  Neverthe- 

1  This  was  not  true  of  all  the  Pietists.  Some  sects,  as  for  example  the  Herrenhuter, 
were  in  favour  of  elaborate  church  music;  on  the  other  hand,  there  were  also  orthodox 
pastors  who  condemned  the  concertizing  organ  style.  Cf.  Besch,  'J.  S.  Bach.  Frommigkeit 
und  Glaube,'  Kassel,  1950. 

2  These  remarks  are  quoted  by  Bach's  predecessor,  J.  G.  Ahle,  in  a  new  edition  of 
his  father's  'Kurze  und  deutliche  Anleitung  zu  der  lieblich  und  loblichen  Singekunst* 
of  1704. 

140  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

less,  such  difficulties  might  eventually  have  been  smoothed  out  and  a  com- 
promise agreed  upon  with  pastor  Frohne,  who  was  not  a  fanatic  and  was 
likely  to  have  appreciated  his  organist's  true  faith.  Unfortunately,  Sebas- 
tian could  not  help  taking  sides  in  a  feud  between  Frohne  and  the  pastor 
of  St.  Mary's,  Georg  Christian  Eilmar,  on  matters  of  dogma.  The  latter,  a 
passionate  upholder  of  Orthodoxy,  had  started  violent  attacks  against 
Frohne's  Pietism  as  early  as  1699.  At  that  time  the  Council  intervened  and 
interdicted  any  further  dispute  of  the  kind.  Now,  however,  the  old  con- 
flict was  again  brought  into  the  open  and  the  fight  conducted  in  anything 
but  a  Christian  spirit.  Eilmar  was  the  more  aggressive,  and  his  rigid  insis- 
tence on  the  letter  of  the  dogma  does  not  make  him  appear  in  too  pleasant 
a  light.  But  he  had  one  point  in  his  favour:  he  allowed  music  an  important 
part  in  the  service.  He  wrote  libretti  for  some  of  Sebastian's  cantatas,1 
and  apparently  thought  much  of  the  organist's  talent.  To  receive  en- 
couragement both  in  his  general  aims  and  in  his  creative  efforts  from  so 
important  a  man  must  have  meant  a  good  deal  to  the  young  composer, 
and  it  naturally  drew  him  towards  Eilmar.  He  closed  his  eyes  to  Eilmar's 
narrow-mindedness  and  reactionary  formalism  and  became  sufficiently 
friendly  with  the  pastor  to  suggest  his  being  godfather  to  the  first  child 
which  his  young  wife  was  expecting.  Eilmar  accepted,  and  when  the  girl 
was  born  in  December  1708  he  went  to  Weimar,  whither  the  Bachs  had 
moved,  to  attend  the  christening  ceremony.  The  friendly  connection 
continued,  and  for  Sebastian's  first  son,  Friedemann,  Eilmar's  daughter, 
Anna  Dorothea  Hagedorn,  stood  godmother. 

Looking  at  Sebastian's  attitude  from  the  viewpoint  of  his  artistic 
personality,  we  are  faced  with  a  paradox.  How  could  one  who  expressed 
with  such  eloquence  the  yearning  for  a  mystic  union  with  Christ,  whose 
music  was  imbued  with  a  longing  to  be  relieved  from  the  fetters  of  the 
mortal  flesh,  how  could  such  an  artist  fight  these  very  same  emotions  in 
the  Pietistic  doctrine?  The  clue  to  this  riddle  may  perhaps  be  found  in 
Sebastian's  background  and  in  his  youth.  He  had  been  brought  up  in 
Lutheran  Orthodoxy,  and  a  man  so  deeply  conscious  of  his  family  ties 
naturally  felt  bound  to  adhere  to  the  type  of  religion  his  forebears  had 
believed  in.  At  the  age  of  23,  overflowing  with  creative  impulses,  and  eager 
to  try  out  all  kinds  of  artistic  experiments,  Sebastian  had  little  time  for 
introspection.  He  did  not  probe  into  the  depths  of  his  own  faith,  but 

1  This  is  certain  for  Gott  ist  meln  Konig  and  probable  for  Aus  der  Tiefe  rufe  ich 
which  bears  at  the  end  the  note  'at  the  request  of  Mr.  Georg  Chr.  Eilmar  set  to  music  by 
J.  S.  Bach,  organist  of  Miihlhausen.'  He  may  also  have  provided  libretti  for  other  cantatas 
of  this  period. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    MUHLHAUSEN   (17O7-I708)  I41 

simply  followed  the  way  which  both  his  artistic  interests  and  the  tradition 
of  the  Bach  clan  (though  not  that  of  his  mother's  family !)  clearly  indi- 
cated. The  Pietists,  with  their  rejection  of  elaborate  church  music,  were 
his  enemies;  the  Orthodox,  who  saw  in  beautiful  music  a  means  of  glori- 
fying the  Lord,  his  friends.  Beyond  that  he  did  not  venture.  This  does  not 
mean,  however,  that  he  maintained  so  intransigent  an  attitude  throughout 
his  life.  There  is  no  definite  proof  that  he  remained  intolerant  in  his 
adherence  to  Orthodoxy;1  certainly  the  texts  he  used  for  some  of  his  can- 
tatas show  him  to  have  been  anything  but  inimical  to  the  spirit  of  Pietism. 
But  whatever  his  subsequent  attitude  may  have  been,  in  Miihlhausen 
Sebastian  could  not  see  eye  to  eye  with  his  Pietistic  pastor,  and  con- 
sequently, less  than  a  year  after  taking  over  the  position,  he  was  anxious 
to  give  it  up.  Luck  was  with  him.  In  Weimar  a  court  organist  was  needed 
to  replace  the  aged  and  infirm  Johann  Effler,  and  Sebastian  presented  him- 
self in  June  1708,  gave  his  trial  performance,  and  was  naturally  accepted. 
Thereupon  he  wrote  the  following  letter  to  the  Miihlhausen  Council: 

'Magnificent  High  and  very  Noble,  High  and 
respected  Gentlemen, 
Most  Gracious  Patrons  and  Gentlemen, 

'This  is  to  express  to  your  Magnificent  and  to  my  highly  esteemed 
Patrons  who  of  your  grace  bestowed  on  me,  your  humble  servant,  the 
office,  vacant  a  year  ago,  of  Organist  to  the  church  of  St.  Blasius,  and 
granted  me  the  enjoyment  of  a  better  subsistence,  that  at  all  times  I  desire 
to  recognize  your  favours  with  obedient  gratitude.  I  have  always  kept  one 
end  in  view,  namely,  with  all  good  will  to  conduct  a  well  regulated  church 
music  to  the  honour  of  God,  in  agreement  with  your  desires,  and  besides 
to  assist,  so  far  as  possible  to  my  humble  ability,  the  church  music  that 
has  grown  up  in  almost  all  the  neighbouring  parishes,  which  is  often 
better  than  the  harmony  produced  here.  To  that  end  I  have  obtained  from 
far  and  wide,  and  not  without  expense,  a  good  collection  of  the  choicest 
pieces  of  church  music. 

'Furthermore  I  have  laid  before  you  the  report  of  the  defects  in  the 

1  The  tendency  of  many  Bach  biographers  to  conclude  from  Sebastian's  attitude  in 
Miihlhausen  that  his  strict  adherence  to  Orthodoxy  and  his  animosity  towards  Pietism 
lasted  throughout  his  life  does  not  seem  justified.  This  would  mean  a  lack  of  spiritual 
growth  not  in  keeping  with  the  nature  of  genius.  As  a  further  proof  of  Bach's  Orthodoxy 
his  library  is  usually  referred  to,  which  contained  some  80  theological  works,  most  of  which 
were  by  leaders  of  Lutheran  Orthodoxy.  This  certainly  reveals  the  composer's  strong 
interest  in  these  problems,  but  we  cannot  deduce  from  it  that  he  completely  shared  the 
several  authors'  views. 


organ  needing  repair,  and  at  all  times  and  places  have  with  pleasure  ful- 
filled the  duties  of  my  office.  Yet  this  has  not  been  done  without  opposi- 
tion, and  at  present  there  is  not  the  slightest  appearance  that  things  will  be 
altered,  though  in  time,  no  doubt,  our  congregation  will  be  brought  to 
approve.  Moreover  I  have  humbly  to  represent  that,  modest  as  is  my  way 
of  life,  with  the  payment  of  house-rent  and  the  purchase  of  indispensable 
articles  of  consumption,  I  can  only  with  difficulty  carry  on  a  fitting 

'Now  God  has  so  ordered  it  that  a  change  has  unexpectedly  been 
presented  to  me,  in  which  I  foresee  the  attainment  of  a  more  sufficient 
subsistence  and  the  more  effective  pursuit  of  my  aims  in  the  due  ordering 
of  church  music  without  interference  from  others,  since  His  Royal  and 
Serene  Highness  of  Saxe- Weimar  has  graciously  offered  me  the  entree  to 
His  Court  Capelle  and  Chamber  Music. 

'In  consequence  of  this  privilege  I  hereby,  with  obedience  and  respect, 
represent  it  to  my  Most  Gracious  Patrons,  and  at  the  same  time  would  ask 
them  to  take  my  small  services  to  the  church  up  to  this  time  into  favour- 
able consideration,  and  to  grant  me  the  benefit  of  providing  me  with  a 
gracious  dismissal.  If  I  can  in  any  way  further  contribute  to  the  service  of 
your  church  I  will  prove  myself  better  in  deed  than  in  word,  as  long  as  life 
shall  endure. 

'I  am,  Most  Honourable  Gentlemen,  Most  Gracious  Patrons, 

Your  Most  Humble  Servant, 

Joh.  Seb.  Bach. 
Miihlhausen,  June  25,  anno  1708.' 

The  concluding  remark  evidently  refers  to  the  organ  repairs  started  at 
his  instigation.  The  authorities,  while  regretfully  consenting  to  the 
organist's  departure,  asked  him  to  continue  to  supervise  the  work;  he 
promised  gladly.  Indeed,  so  friendly  remained  his  relations  with  the  Miihl- 
hausen Councillors  that  he  was  again  commissioned,  in  1709,  to  write  the 
'congratulatory  motet'  for  the  inauguration  of  the  new  Council.1 

Before  leaving,  Sebastian  was  able  once  more  to  suggest  a  cousin  as 
his  successor.  The  Council  agreed,  but  insisted  (again  in  the  pattern  of 
Arnstadt)  that  the  new  organist  should  receive  a  much  lower  salary.  Thus 
Sebastian  was  replaced  by  Johann  Friedrich,  son  of  the  great  Johann 
Christoph  of  Eisenach,  who,  in  the  good  old  family  tradition,  retained 

1  Although  this  cantata  was  printed  too,  no  copy  has  been  traced  so  far,  and  we  do 
not  even  know  its  tide.  Yet  the  Miihlhausen  files  prove  irrefutably  that  Bach  wrote  such 
a  work.  Cf.  'Miihlhauser  Geschichtsblatter,'  1932. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    WEIMAR    (1708-I717)  143 

the  position  up  to  his  death  in  1730.  But  such  stability  was  as  yet  impos- 
sible for  Sebastian,  and  so  we  see  him  in  July  1708  joyfully  starting  a  new 
life  at  Weimar. 



The  geographical  distance  between  Miihlhausen  and  Weimar  is  not 
more  than  40  miles.  Socially  and  economically,  however,  Sebastian 
travelled  a  long  way  when  he  exchanged  his  position  in  the  Free  Imperial 
City  for  one  at  the  ducal  court.  From  the  outset  his  new  salary  was  almost 
twice  what  he  received  in  Miihlhausen,  and  it  was  destined  to  grow 
steadily  throughout  his  stay  at  Weimar.  And  although  succeeding  the 
Ahles,  father  and  son,  at  St.  Blasius'  had  been  a  privilege  indeed,  yet,  in 
the  eyes  of  the  world,  a  good  position  at  a  ducal  court  bestowed  still  more 
prestige.  Added  to  the  material  advantages  there  were  other  considera- 
tions which  meant  much  to  the  organist.  His  new  patron  was  a  fervent 
and  deeply  religious  Lutheran,  who  valued  music  as  an  important  means 
of  glorifying  the  Lord.  Here  Sebastian  found  encouragement  for  carrying 
out  his  schemes  for  'a  well  regulated  church  music,'  and  no  opposition 
was  to  be  anticipated  from  other  religious  sects,  as  the  Duke,  who  ruled 
his  land  with  an  iron  hand,  would  not  tolerate  anything  but  orthodox 

Later  in  the  century,  the  small  court  of  Weimar  was  to  become  the 
Athens  of  Germany,  witnessing  the  golden  age  of  literature  dominated  by 
the  gigantic  figures  of  Goethe  and  Schiller.  Then,  like  a  magnet,  Weimar 
was  to  attract  men  eminent  in  all  the  realms  of  culture,  men  who  were  to 
find  in  the  small  residence  of  the  enlightened  Duke  Carl  August  a  most 
congenial  atmosphere.  In  Bach's  time  there  was  as  yet  hardly  a  breath  of 
that  invigorating  cultural  climate,  but  even  then  Weimar  was  clearly 
different  from  the  average  small  German  court.  Here  religion  was  the  axis 
around  which  everything  revolved.  The  serious-minded  Duke  Wilhelm 
Ernst,  in  the  45  years  of  his  rule,  struck  this  note,  and  the  court  followed 
his  lead.  All  ducal  servants  had  to  attend  daily  devotions  and  take  turns 
in  reading  the  Bible  aloud.  To  let  the  attention  wander  during  a  sermon 
was  highly  dangerous,  for  the  Duke  had  the  unpleasant  habit  of  question- 
ing his  servants  personally  on  every  detail  of  the  chaplain's  discourse.  It 
was  also  the  Serenissimus  himself  who  worked  out  the  order  in  which  his 

144  THE    fiACH    FAMILY 

employees  were  to  appear  at  the  altar  for  Communion.  Not  only  was  the 
Duke  engrossed  in  matters  of  religious  dogma;  he  also  attempted  to  lead 
a  truly  Christian  life.  Hence  there  arose  at  Weimar  an  atmosphere  of 
austerity  which  was  in  strong  contrast  to  the  frivolity  and  extravagance 
prevalent  at  other  German  courts.  Not  a  glimmer  of  light  was  visible 
about  the  castle  after  8  p.m.  in  the  winter  and  9  p.m.  in  the  summer. 
Festivities  were  rare,  and  even  the  troupe  of  actors1  which  the  Duke 
had  employed  for  some  years  was  dismissed  before  Sebastian's  arrival. 
Wilhelm  Ernst's  tastes  were  frugal  but  he  insisted  on  a  supply  of  fresh 
flowers  every  day;  to  meet  his  needs  he  had  the  castle's  bearpit,  where  his 
predecessors  had  kept  wild  beasts,  transformed  into  a  beautiful  garden. 
Whilst  allowing  only  a  small  budget  for  entertainment,  the  Duke  spent 
considerable  sums  on  welfare  and  cultural  institutions;  showing  himself 
in  all  such  enterprises  an  important  precursor  of  that  type  of  enlightened 
ruler  which  Germany  and  Austria  were  to  produce  some  50  years  later. 
Yet,  on  the  other  hand,  he  was  convinced  of  his  absolute  power,  and 
accepted  as  a  matter  of  course  the  idea,  characteristic  of  the  epoch,  that  an 
unbridgeable  gulf  existed  between  his  august  self  and  his  subjects.  He  was,  in 
short,  a  despot,  though  a  well-meaning  one.  In  the  field  of  music,  however, 
the  new  organist's  ideas  seemed  to  move  along  the  same  lines  as  those  of 
the  patron,  and  there  was  every  prospect  of  a  harmonious  relationship 
between  Duke  Wilhelm  Ernst  and  Sebastian  Bach.  The  Prince  came  to 
value  his  organist's  gifts  very  highly,  and  to  trust  his  judgment  in  musical 
matters  implicitly.  Although  the  organ  of  the  Schlosskirche  had  been 
reconstructed  as  recently  as  1708,  Bach  succeeded  in  inducing  his  patron 
to  spend  further  substantial  sums  on  it.  First  he  had  a  set  of  chimes  in- 
stalled similar  to  those  he  had  prescribed  for  the  Miihlhausen  church,  and 
before  long  he  suggested  a  complete  reconstruction,  which  the  organ 
builder,  Heinrich  Trebs,  executed  between  1712  and  1714.2  The  Duke's 
co-operative  attitude  was  all  the  young  musician  needed  to  unfold  his 
genius.  It  was  at  Weimar  that  Bach  the  organist  climbed  to  the  loftiest 
heights.  As  his  patron  allowed  him  frequent  absences,  during  which  his 
competent  pupil,  J.  M.  Schubart,  deputized,  Sebastian  often  played  at 
other  courts  and  cities  too,  and  his  fame  as  an  organ  virtuoso  spread  all 
over  Germany.  Legends  began  to  circulate;  how  all  unknown  he  had 
visited  a  village  church  and  coaxed  such  magnificent  sounds  out  of  a 
wretched  instrument  that  the  village  organist  whispered:  'This  can  only 

1  In  1696  the  theatre  was  inaugurated  with  a  work  bearing  the  characteristic  title 
'Of  virtuous  Love  as  opposed  to  sinful  Desire.' 

J  Cf.  Jauernig  in  'Johann  Sebastian  Bach  in  Thuringen,'  1950. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    WEIMAR    (1708-1717)  145 

be  the  devil  or  Bach  himself!'  But  the  awe  and  admiration  of  his  contem- 
poraries for  Sebastian's  stupendous  virtuosity  are  also  laid  down  in 
authentic  reports.  Constantin  Bellermann,  a  rector  of  Minden,  describes 
Bach's  performance  on  the  pedals  at  the  court  of  Cassel  thus:  'His  feet  flew 
over  the  pedal-board  as  though  they  had  wings,  and  powerful  sounds 
roared  like  thunder  through  the  church.  This  filled  Frederick,  the  Crown 
Prince,  with  such  astonishment  and  admiration  that  he  drew  from  his 
finger  a  ring  set  with  precious  stones  and  gave  it  to  Bach  as  soon  as  the 
sound  had  died  away.  If  the  skill  of  his  feet  alone  earned  him  such  a  gift, 
what  might  the  Prince  have  given  him  had  he  used  his  hands  as  well.'  To 
which  we  may  add:  and  what  would  have  been  the  just  reward  to  the 
composer  of  the  works  that  the  performer  interpreted  so  miraculously? 
For  simultaneously  with  the  organ  virtuoso  the  organ  composer  Bach 
also  climbed  to  the  peak  of  his  creative  mastery,  and  the  majority  of  his 
important  organ  works  were  written  or  at  least  started  in  Weimar.  Kindled 
by  the  prevailing  religious  atmosphere  they  achieved  a  'disembodied 
spirituality'  (Forkel)  which  has  perhaps  been  best  characterized  by  the 
Weimar  genius  who  heard  them  a  century  later.  Goethe,  listening  to 
Bach's  organ  works,  wrote:  'It  is  as  though  eternal  harmony  were  con- 
versing with  itself,  as  it  may  have  happened  in  God's  bosom  shortly 
before  He  created  the  world.' 

Such  insight  was  not  given  to  Sebastian's  contemporaries.  Though 
learned  musicians  could  not  fail  to  be  impressed  by  Bach's  profound 
knowledge  and  superb  craftsmanship,  to  most  listeners  his  dazzling 
exploits  as  a  performer  necessarily  obscured  his  creative  achievements. 
Sebastian's  own  attitude  in  this  matter  will  never  be  known.  His  was  not 
an  age  of  self-expression  and  introspection.  What  he  is  reported  to  have 
said  about  his  own  work  is  therefore  quite  unrevealing.  Complimented 
on  his  great  organ  playing,  he  answered  deprecatingly:  'There  is  nothing 
to  it.  You  only  have  to  hit  the  right  notes  at  the  right  time  and  the  instru- 
ment plays  itself.'  And  Forkel  reports:  'When  he  was  asked  how  he  had 
contrived  to  master  the  art  to  such  a  high  degree,  he  generally  answered: 
"I  was  obliged  to  work  hard;  whoever  is  equally  industrious,  will  succeed 
just  as  well." '  It  seems  doubtful  whether  Bach  was  as  modest  as  these 
utterances  suggest.  They  were  dictated  rather  by  innate  reserve  and  a 
natural  contempt  for  people  who  asked  questions  that  defied  a  real 

There  is  yet  a  third  aspect  of  Sebastian's  activities  in  connection  with 
the  organ.  He  gradually  attained  the  position  of  a  highly  skilled  expert  on 
the  construction  of  the  instrument,  and  in  this  capacity  he  constantly 


received  invitations  to  test  newly  completed  or  repaired  organs.  'He  was,' 
as  Forkel  reports,  on  the  basis  of  information  from  Philipp  Emanuel 
Bach,  'very  severe,  but  always  just,  in  his  trials  of  organs.  As  he  was 
perfectly  acquainted  with  the  construction  of  the  instrument,  he  could  not 
be  in  any  case  deceived.  The  first  thing  he  did  in  trying  out  an  organ  was 
to  draw  out  all  the  stops  and  play  with  the  full  organ.  He  used  to  say  in 
jest  that  he  must  know  whether  the  instrument  had  good  lungs.  After  the 
examination  was  over,  he  generally  amused  himself  and  those  present  by 
showing  his  skill  as  a  performer.  .  .  .  He  would  choose  some  subject  and 
execute  it  in  all  the  various  forms  of  organ  composition,  never  changing 
his  theme,  even  though  he  might  play, without  intermission,  for  two  hours 
or  more.  First  he  used  it  for  a  prelude'  and  a  fugue,  with  the  full  organ. 
Then  he  showed  his  art  of  using  the  stops  for  a  trio,  a  quartet,  etc.  After- 
wards there  followed  a  chorale,  the  melody  of  which  was  playfully  sur- 
rounded in  the  most  diversified  manner  by  the  original  subject,  in  three 
or  four  parts.  Finally,  the  conclusion  was  made  by  a  fugue,  with  full 
organ,  in  which  either  another  treatment  of  the  first  subject  predominated, 
or  one  or  two  other  subjects  were  mixed  with  it.' 

Success  won  outside  Weimar  naturally  had  some  bearing  on  his 
standing  there;  this  was  particularly  true  in  the  case  of  Halle.  Five  years 
after  his  arrival  in  Weimar,  Sebastian  visited  this  town  and  was  greatly 
impressed  by  the  plans  for  a  rebuilding  of  the  huge  Liebfrauenkirche  organ. 
To  work  on  such  an  outstanding  instrument  (with  65  stops!)  was 
tempting  indeed;  and  as  the  organist's  position,  held  up  to  171 2  by 
Handel's  teacher,  Friedrich  Wilhelm  Zachau,  was  still  vacant,  Sebastian 
applied  for  it.  The  Halle  authorities  showed  themselves  very  interested, 
and  at  their  urgent  request  Sebastian  not  only  gave  the  customary  per- 
formance on  the  organ  but  also  produced  a  cantata  of  his  own  com- 
position. The  electors  were  naturally  much  struck  by  his  mastery,  and 
hardly  had  Sebastian  returned  to  Weimar  when  he  received  a  contract 
from  Halle  for  signature.1  The  conditions,  however,  were  not  too  attrac- 
tive. The  yearly  salary  paid  in  Halle  was  196  fl.  (to  which  some  accidentien 
for  weddings,  etc.  could  be  added)  whereas  in  Weimar  he  received  225  fl. 
He  therefore  wrote  back  noncommittally  and  tried  to  obtain  better  condi- 
tions. Halle  remained  firm,  however,  and  while  Sebastian  was  weighing 

1  Paragraph  4  of  this  contract  stipulated  that  the  organist  should  accompany  the 
hymns  'quietly  on  4  or  5  stops  with  the  Principal,  so  as  not  to  distract  the  congregation  .  .  . 
eschewing  the  use  of  Quintatons,  reeds,  syncopations,  and  suspensions,  allowing  the  organ 
to  support  and  harmonize  with  the  congregation's  singing.'  This  shows  that  Arnstadt's 
earlier  complaints  against  young  Sebastian's  too  elaborate  accompaniment  were  quite  in 
keeping  with  the  prevailing  opinion. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    WEIMAR   (1708-I717)  I47 

its  artistic  attractions  against  the  financial  loss  involved,  his  Duke  con- 
siderably improved  the  Weimar  contract,  with  the  result  that  Sebastian 
now  definitely  declined  the  Halle  position.  The  electors  were  mortified  and 
hinted  that  the  organist  had  used  them  simply  as  a  means  of  securing 
better  conditions  at  Weimar.  Such  insinuations  he  contested  in  an  ener- 
getic letter,  and  his  arguments  must  have  been  persuasive  enough  to  calm 
the  Halle  authorities;  for,  two  years  later,  when  the  great  organ  was 
completed,  it  was  Sebastian  who,  together  with  the  organ  experts,  Johann 
Kuhnau  and  Christian  Friedrich  Rolle,  was  invited  to  test  it.  Bach, 
delighted  with  the  Halle  electors'  change  of  mind,  accepted  with  alacrity 
and  had  a  very  good  time  indeed.  Not  only  was  it  fascinating  to  try  out 
the  new  organ,  but  he  also  enjoyed  co-operating  with  the  Thomas  Cantor, 
Kuhnau,  little  foreseeing  that  he  would  succeed  the  great  musician  7 
years  later.  Halle,  on  the  other  hand,  outdid  itself  in  courtesies  to  the  three 
organists.  Servants,  coaches,  and  refreshments  were  more  than  plentiful. 
The  menu  of  the  concluding  banquet  is  certainly  impressive  and  deserves 
to  be  quoted  in  full: 

Boeuf  a  la  mode. 

Pike  with  Anchovy  Butter  Sauce. 

Smoked  Ham. 

Sausages  and  Spinach. 

Roast  Mutton. 

Roast  Veal. 

Peas.  Potatoes.  Boiled  Pumpkin.  Asparagus.  Lettuce.  Radishes. 


Candied  Lemon  Peel.  Preserved  Cherries. 

Fresh  Butter. 

The  wine  is  not  mentioned  especially,  but  there  is  every  reason  to  believe 
that  the  guests  of  honour  sampled  no  small  amount  of  it.1 

From  now  on  work  in  Weimar  was  even  more  absorbing.  At  the 
beginning  of  his  employment,  Sebastian  had  been  engaged  as  court 
organist  and  chamber  musician,  the  latter  title  meaning  that  he  also  played 
the  violin  in  the  ducal  band.  A  contemporary  chronicler  reports:  'The 
Duke's  ears  frequently  enjoyed  the  playing  of  16  well-disciplined  musi- 
cians clad  in  Hungarian  haiduk  uniforms,'  and  on  these  occasions  Sebas- 
tian probably  had  to  appear  in  this  fanciful  attire.  Nominally  the  conduc- 
tor of  the  band  was  Johann  Samuel  Drese,  but  infirmity  and  old  age  made 
him  unable  to  officiate.  For  a  considerable  time  his  place  had  been  filled 

1  In  Sebastian's  expense  bills  the  item  for  wine  was  quite  a  considerable  one.  For 
instance,  when  he  went  to  Gera  in  1724  to  examine  a  new  organ,  he  received  30  fl.  as  a 
fee,  10  fl.  for  transportation,  17  fl.  8  gr.  8  pf.  for  food,  and  7  fl.  8  gr.  for  wine. 


by  deputies,  the  last  being  Drese's  own  son,  Johann  Wilhelm,  who  had 
been  trained  at  the  Duke's  expense  in  Italy  and  now  held  the  rank  of  vice- 
conductor.  The  Duke,  although  supporting  the  Dreses  out  of  loyalty  to 
an  old  servant,  could  not  help  realizing  that  it  would  be  a  wise  move  to 
entrust  part  of  the  conductor's  duties  to  his  admirable  organist.  So,  when 
Sebastian  received  the  invitation  from  Halle,  he  created  for  his  organist 
the  new  post  of  Concertmaster  with  a  salary  of  240  fl.,  and  the  obligation 
of  composing  and  performing  a  new  cantata  every  month;  leaving  to  the 
younger  Drese  the  duty  of  supplying  the  court  with  new  secular  music.1 

The  result  was  that  Sebastian  now  had  an  opportunity  of  working 
with  both  singers  and  instrumentalists,  and  was  able  to  lay  the  foundations 
of  his  mastery  as  a  conductor.  The  rehearsals,  like  the  performances,  took 
place  in  the  court  chapel,  a  Baroque  monstrosity  in  the  worst  taste,2  which, 
however,  bore  a  name  most  appropriate  to  the  music  resounding  in  it, 
being  called  the  'Castle  of  Heaven.'3  This  time  the  conductor,  who  led 
the  group  with  his  violin,  had  no  trouble  with  the  singers.  There  were  12 
well-trained  vocalists  at  his  disposal,  among  them  the  excellent  altist, 
Christian  Gerhard  Bernhardi,  himself  a  composer,  for  whom  Bach  wrote 
some  very  intricate  parts.4  The  widening  of  his  musical  duties  brought 
much  joy  to  the  new  Concertmaster,  and  several  great  cantatas  using  texts 
by  the  eminent  Salomo  Franck,  Secretary  of  the  Consistory,  first  saw  the 
light  in  Weimar. 

In  other  respects,  too,  life  was  satisfactory  at  the  small  Court.  Sebas- 
tian's home  was  a  happy  one.  Children  arrived  regularly,  among  them 
three  sons — Wilhelm  Friedemann,  Carl  Philipp  Emanuel,  and  Johann 
Gottfried  Bernhard — destined  to  display  outstanding  musical  talent. 

Godparents  for  the  Bachs'  offspring  were  not  chosen  locally,  and  it  is 
interesting  to  note  that  among  15  persons  who  acted  in  this  capacity,  13 
came  from  other  places.  It  would  seem  that  Bach,  deeply  absorbed  in 
creative  work,  had  not  too  much  time  for  establishing  new  contacts  in 
Weimar.  Yet  there  was  one  fellow  musician  with  whom  he  struck  up  an 
important  friendship:  the  town  organist,  Johann  Gottfried  Walther,  also 
born  in  1685,  a  pupil  of  Sebastian's  cousin,  Johann  Bernhard  Bach,  and, 
moreover,  a  kinsman  on  the  Lammerhirt  side  (cf.  p.  17)  who  had  spent  his 
childhood  in  the  house  'The  Three  Roses,'  where  Sebastian's  mother  was 

1  Cf.  Jauernig,  I.e. 

2  The  chapel  was  destroyed  by  fire  in  1774  together  with  the  castle,  and  new 
buildings  were  erected  according  to  Goethe's  plans. 

8  It  was  originally  called  'Path  to  the  Castle  of  Heaven'  on  account  of  a  small  pyramid 
which  rose  from  the  altar  to  the  ceiling  carrying  litde  cherubs  towards  Heaven. 
*  Cf.  Cantatas  132,  161,  185. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    WEIMAR   (1708-I717)  149 

born.1  The  two  Weimar  organists  were  both  newly  married,  and  when 
Walther's  first  son  was  born,  Bach  stood  godfather.  In  Walther,  an  emi- 
nent organist  and  a  composer  of  outstanding  chorale  preludes,  Sebastian 
found  a  congenial  spirit;  in  his  zeal  for  self-improvement  he  discovered 
that  much  could  be  learned  from  his  colleague.  In  particular,  their  common 
interest  in  Italian  music  formed  a  strong  bond,  and  there  was  a  friendly 
competition  between  them  in  the  arrangement  of  Italian  concertos  for  key- 
board instruments.  According  to  Walther,  Bach  presented  him  with  no 
less  than  200  compositions,  partly  his  own  and  partly  B ohm's  and  Buxte- 
hude's.  Friendly  relations  were  also  established  with  Johann  Mathias 
Gesner,2  vice-principal  of  the  Weimar  Gymnasium,  who  became  one  of 
Sebastian's  staunch  admirers.  Of  course  there  was  also  frequent  inter- 
course with  kinsmen  and  with  musicians  in  nearby  places.  In  Eisenach 
there  was  Johann  Bernhard  Bach,  and  from  1708  to  1712  the  celebrated  and 
prolific  Georg  Philipp  Telemann,  who,  after  moving  to  Frankfurt,  stood 
godfather  to  Sebastian's  second  son.  The  city  of  Jena,  which  formed  part 
of  the  Duke  of  Weimar's  territory,  was  within  reach,  and  visits  to  Johann 
Nicolaus  Bach  could  easily  be  arranged. 

Gifted  pupils  provided  a  further  enrichment  of  his  life.  Among  them 
were  the  excellent  organists,  Schubart  and  Vogler,  and  also  Johann  Tobias 
Krebs,  a  Cantor  himself,  who  walked  regularly  for  seven  years  from  the 
village  of  Buttelstadt  to  Weimar,  in  order  to  receive  instruction  from 
Walther  and  Bach.  Continuing  the  old  family  tradition,  Sebastian  under- 
took the  training  of  two  young  kinsmen,  Johann  Lorenz  (38),  grandson 
of  Georg  Christoph  (10)  from  Schweinfurt,  and  Johann  Bernhard  (41), 
son  of  Sebastian's  own  teacher  and  eldest  brother,  Johann  Christoph 
(22)  of  Ohrdruf.3  With  four  children,  various  pupils,  and  one  of  his 
wife's  sisters  who  lived  with  them,  Sebastian's  home  was  just  as  full  of 
life  as  his  hospitable  father's  had  been. 

He  also  had  sundry  pupils  of  a  more  exalted  rank.  The  princely  patron 
whom  he  had  served  when  first  working  in  Weimar  for  a  few  months  in 
1703  (cf.  p.  130)  died  in  1707,  but  he  left  two  sons  in  whom  Sebastian  was 
greatly  interested.  The  younger,  Johann  Ernst,  had  a  really  outstanding 

1  The  house  belonged  to  Valentin  Lammerhirt,  from  whose  widow  it  was  bought 
by  Hedwig  Bach,  the  wife  of  Johann.  It  remained  in  the  family  until  1688,  when  J. 
Egidius  Bach  sold  it  to  J.  Stefan  Walther,  the  father  of  the  organist. 

2  Gesner  had  studied  at  the  University  of  Jena  and  probably  made  friends  with 
J.  Nicolaus  Bach. 

3  J.  Lorenz  stayed  at  Weimar  from  1713  to  1717,  whereupon  he  was  appointed  Cantor 
in  Lahm,  Franconia.  J.  Bernhard  moved  with  Sebastian  to  Cothen,  staying  until  1719. 
In  1 72 1  he  succeeded  his  late  father  in  office. 

15°  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

musical  talent,  and  three  of  his  violin  concertos  were  transcribed  by  Bach 
for  keyboard  instruments;  these  works  written  in  the  Italian  style  were 
even  granted  the  honour  of  being  mistaken  for  compositions  by  Vivaldi. 
Johann  Ernst's  real  teacher  was  Walther;  but  there  was  undoubtedly  much 
artistic  intercourse  between  the  court  organist  and  the  young  Prince,  and 
Sebastian  must  have  grieved  indeed  when  a  tragic  fate  carried  off  the 
talented  youth  in  171 5  at  the  age  of  19. 

But  there  was  an  elder  brother,  Prince  Ernst  August,  who  was  also 
interested  in  music,  and  he  studied  the  clavier  with  Bach.  Ernst  August 
was  not  what  one  would  call  a  lovable  character;  contemporary  reports 
make  him  appear  a  highly  eccentric  man,  whose  actions  sometimes 
bordered  on  insanity.  His  ideas  about  government  were  decidedly  old- 
fashioned;  for  when  he  succeeded  his  uncle,  Wilhelm  Ernst,  as  a  ruler  of 
Weimar,  he  issued  an  edict  threatening  any  subject  proved  to  have 
'reasoned,'  i.e.  criticized  conditions  in  his  land,  with  six  months'  imprison- 
ment. At  the  time  of  Sebastian's  work  at  Weimar,  the  Prince's  views  had 
not  yet  assumed  so  excessive  a  character.  Bach  spent  a  good  deal  of  time 
in  Ernst  August's  castle,  taking  part  in  its  very  active  musical  life,1  and 
the  Prince,  according  to  a  statement  from  Emanuel  Bach  to  Forkel,  'parti- 
cularly loved  him  and  rewarded  him  appropriately.'2  This  was  destined 
to  be  fatal  to  Sebastian's  position  in  Weimar.  The  relations  between 
Wilhelm  Ernst,  the  reigning  sovereign,  and  his  nephew  and  heir,  Ernst 
August,  were  very  strained  indeed.  According  to  the  charter  of  the  Duchy 
of  Saxe- Weimar,  all  executive  power  was  centred  in  the  eldest  Duke,  his 
younger  relatives  having  a  purely  consultative  role  in  the  government. 
So  vague  a  provision  naturally  opened  the  door  to  family  quarrels  of  all 
kinds;  during  Sebastian's  stay  at  Weimar  these  assumed  inordinate  pro- 
portions. Duke  Wilhelm  Ernst  definitely  had  a  mind  of  his  own  and  did 
not  relish  any  advice  from  his  nephew.  Ernst  August,  on  the  other  hand, 
insisted  on  voicing  his  opinions  and  there  was  constant  friction  and 
antagonism.  These  were  difficult  times  for  the  court  employees,  who 
needed  a  good  deal  of  tact  not  to  become  involved  in  the  feud  between  the 
two  Princes.  The  court  musicians  in  particular  found  themselves  in  a  sad 
predicament  when  Duke  Wilhelm  Ernst,  on  pain  of  a  10  thalers  fine, 
forbade  them  to  play  in  his  nephew's  castle.  This  was  most  unfair,  as  the 

1  Jauernig,  I.e.,  points  to  items  in  the  Particulier  Cammerrechnungen  der  Fiirstl. 
Sachs.  Jiingeren  Linie  revealing  considerable  expenses  for  copying  music,  and  buying 
instruments.  One  of  these  was  a  Lautenwerk  acquired  for  the  price  of  41  fl.  3  gr.  from  the 
Jena  Bach. 

2  Cf.  letter  to  Forkel  of  January  13,  1775. 

J.     SEBASTIAN    IN    WEIMAR   (1708-1717)  151 

musicians  counted  among  the  'joint  servants'  and  were  remunerated  from 
the  joint  treasury.  Bach's  sense  of  justice  and  his  independent  spirit  made 
him  pay  no  heed  to  so  unreasonable  an  order.  Indeed,  on  Duke  Ernst 
August's  birthday  he  performed  a  cantata  with  musicians  from  the  nearby 
court  of  Weissenfels,1  and  handed  the  Duke  a  birthday  poem  bound  in 
green  taffeta,  for  which  he  was  handsomely  rewarded.  Naturally  the  elder 
Duke's  ire  was  roused  and  he  soon  found  a  way  to  punish  his  concert- 

In  December  171 6  old  Drese,  the  Kapellmeister,  died,  and  by  all 
rights  the  position  should  have  been  conferred  on  Sebastian  Bach,  who  in 
the  past  two  years  had  assumed  most  of  its  duties.  This  was  what  Sebas- 
tian himself  expected  as  a  matter  of  course.  The  Duke,  however,  first  tried 
to  secure  Telemann,  and  when  this  proved  impossible  he  conferred  the 
position  on  the  former  vice-conductor,  Johann  Wilhelm  Drese.  Sebas- 
tian's disappointment  and  humiliation  at  having  been  passed  over  for  the 
sake  of  a  nonentity  like  young  Drese  were  intense,  and  the  work  at 
Weimar  lost  its  attraction  for  him.  It  is  significant  that  after  old  Drese's 
death  no  trace  of  any  cantatas  written  by  the  Concertmaster  is  to  be 
found.  Even  at  the  Bicentenary  of  the  Reformation,  celebrated  in  grand 
style,  the  fervent  admirer  of  Luther  remained  silent.  It  is  possible  that  the 
Duke,  when  conferring  the  conductorship  on  young  Drese,  expected  him 
henceforth  to  supply  all  the  new  cantatas  required.  Bearing  in  mind 
Sebastian's  behaviour  in  Arnstadt,  however,  it  seems  just  as  likely  that  the 
headstrong  Concertmaster  simply  stopped  composing  for  his  patron  in 
order  to  express  his  grievance. 

The  sequence  of  events  bears  an  interesting  resemblance  to  that  in 
Miihlhausen.  Again  Sebastian  was  drawn  into  a  conflict  that  did  not  really 
concern  him;  just  as  he  had  supported  Eilmar  against  his  own  superior  in 
Miihlhausen,  so  in  Weimar  he  revealed  his  attachment  to  the  younger 
Duke,  and  infuriated  his  actual  patron.  In  each  case  a  less  straightforward 
nature  could  have  avoided  entanglement  in  such  feuds.  Sebastian,  how- 
ever, was  anything  but  a  tactician.  Indeed,  there  was  a  definitely  pug- 
nacious streak  in  his  disposition;  far  from  trying  to  avoid  difficulties,  he 
acted  rather  to  provoke  them,  and  then  used  all  his  energy  and  resource- 
fulness to  overcome  the  resulting  trouble. 

Accordingly,  after  nine  years  of  service  at  Weimar,  Sebastian  began 
to  consider  moving  again.  Those  friendly  relations  with  the  younger 

1  Jauernig  claims  that  this  was  Bach's  Jagdkantate  (cf.  p.  226).  Spitta's  assumption 
that  the  performance  of  this  work  in  Weimar  took  place  after  1728  (the  year  in  which  Duke 
Wilhelm  Ernst  died)  seems  less  probable. 

152  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

Duke  that  had  spoiled  his  promotion  now  helped  him  to  reach  his  goal. 
Duke  Ernst  August  had  married  in  1716  a  sister  of  Prince  Leopold  of 
Anhalt-Cothen,  the  young  ruler  of  a  tiny  principality  that  had  come  into 
existence  through  the  partition  of  the  little  Duchy  of  Anhalt.  Bach  was  on 
excellent  terms  with  the  Duchess,  and  it  did  not  take  long  for  her  brother 
to  discover  what  a  prize  he  could  acquire  for  his  own  court.  He  therefore 
decided  to  reorganize  his  music  staff;  his  conductor  was  to  retire  in  August 
I7i7,and  the  Prince  offered  the  position  to  Sebastian  on  highly  favourable 
terms.  The  character  of  the  work  was  the  diametrical  opposite  of  that  in 
Weimar.  No  organ  playing  and  no  composition  of  church  music  was 
expected  from  the  conductor;  for  the  Cothen  court  had  adopted  as  early 
as  1596  the  Reformed  (Calvinistic)  Church,  which  meant  that  except  for 
certain  feast  days  only  the  simplest  kind  of  unadorned  psalmody  was  per- 
mitted in  the  service.  On  the  other  hand,  the  Prince  was  deeply  interested 
in  instrumental  music,  and  in  this  field  the  conductor  was  expected  to  be 
constantly  at  work.  Acceptance  of  the  Cothen  position  therefore  meant 
breaking  with  almost  everything  that  Sebastian  had  hitherto  aimed  at  and 
accomplished.  As  a  musician,  and  with  his  consuming  zest  for  experi- 
menting, he  could  not  fail  to  be  fascinated  by  the  very  novelty  of  his 
prospective  artistic  duties.  So,  although  Sebastian  did  not  uphold  the 
religious  doctrine  of  the  Cothen  court,  he  accepted  the  offer;  and  from 
August  1,  1717,  he  was  on  the  princely  pay-roll,  despite  the  fact  that  he 
had  not  yet  received  his  leave  from  Weimar.  At  the  same  time  the 
generous  Prince  Leopold  paid  him  an  additional  amount  of  50  thalers 
to  defray  the  expenses  of  his  removal,  and  it  appears  that  Sebastian  settled 
his  large  family  in  Cothen  before  matters  were  straightened  out  in 
Weimar.  From  Cothen  he  travelled  to  Dresden,  where  at  that  moment  a 
French  organist  and  clavier  player,  Louis  Marchand,  was  making  a 
tremendous  impression.  Sebastian,  who  had  known  and  admired  Mar- 
chand's  compositions  for  some  time,  naturally  could  not  miss  so  good  an 
opportunity  to  hear  the  great  man  perform  and  possibly  to  meet  him. 
Little  did  he  suspect  that  instead  of  his  honouring  the  French  master,  the 
honours  would  be  bestowed  on  him.  For  as  soon  as  his  presence  became 
known  in  Dresden,  an  influential  courtier  (possibly  Count  Flemming) 
suggested  holding  a  competition  on  the  clavier  between  the  French  and 
the  German  master.  The  challenge  was  accepted  on  both  sides,  but  when 
Sebastian  presented  himself  before  the  exalted  audience  which  was  to  wit- 
ness the  contest,  his  opponent  was  not  there.  After  a  prolonged  wait,  a 
messenger  sent  to  Marchand  brought  word  that  the  Frenchman  had 
secretly  left  Dresden  that  very  morning,  thus  admitting  the  superiority  of 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    WEIMAR   (1708-1717)  153 

his  German  rival.  Any  disappointment  the  guests  may  have  felt  at  missing 
so  thrilling  a  spectacle  was  quickly  dispersed  by  the  inimitable  art  of  Bach, 
who  now  entertained  them  on  the  clavier. 

With  the  enthusiastic  acclaim  of  the  Dresden  nobility  still  ringing  in 
his  ears,  Sebastian  returned  to  Weimar  to  settle  the  little  formality  of 
getting  official  release  from  his  duties.  In  his  former  appointments  this  had 
never  presented  any  difficulty,  and  apparently  Sebastian  did  not  anticipate 
any  trouble  in  Weimar.  His  pupil,  Johann  Martin  Schubart,  who  had 
deputized  for  him  on  the  organ,  would  be  well  qualified  to  succeed  him. 
The  post  of  Kapellmeister,  with  all  pertaining  duties,  was  held  by  the 
younger  Drese,  and  a  Concertmaster  was  no  longer  needed.  With  Duke 
Wilhelm  Ernst,  however,  such  reasonable  arguments  counted  as  little  as  the 
fact  that  Bach  was  offered  a  substantially  higher  stipend  at  Cothen. 
Changes  in  his  personnel  were  always  annoying  to  him;  he  even  retained 
old  servants  who  were  of  no  use.  Moreover,  although  he  was  angry  with 
Bach,  his  renowned  organist  was  an  asset  to  the  court  which  he  did  not 
like  to  surrender.  Finally,  it  would  be  most  vexing  to  let  Bach  go  to  the 
Prince  of  Cothen,  who,  as  the  brother-in-law  of  Prince  Ernst  August, 
naturally  belonged  to  the  enemy's  camp.  He  therefore  decided  to  refuse 
Bach's  release,  and  thought  that  the  organist,  though  upset  at  first,  would 
eventually  calm  down.  In  this  assumption  he  was  mistaken,  however,  for 
Bach  did  not  submit  to  the  decision  of  his  patron.  Indeed,  so  outspoken 
was  his  insistence  that  (according  to  the  court  secretary's  report)  'he  was 
put  under  arrest  for  too  obstinately  requesting  his  dismissal.'  From 
November  6  to  December  2  Sebastian  remained  in  jail,  making  the  best 
use  of  his  enforced  leisure  by  working  on  his  Orgelbiichlein;  but  as  he 
showed  no  inclination  whatever  to  give  in,  and  as  the  Duke  on  the  other 
hand  did  not  care  for  an  open  wrangle  with  the  Cothen  court,  the  recalci- 
trant organist  was  at  last  released  'with  notice  of  his  unfavourable  dis- 
charge.' As  was  to  be  expected,  Schubart  was  appointed  his  successor  and 
retained  this  position  until  his  early  death  in  1721,  when  he  was  replaced 
by  another  Bach  pupil,  Johann  Caspar  Vogler;  thus  the  Bach  tradition  of 
organ  playing  was  kept  alive  in  Weimar  until  Vogler's  passing  in  1765. 
This  does  not  mean,  however,  that  Sebastian  Bach  was  kindly  remembered 
in  Weimar's  official  circles.  Two  facts  clearly  illuminate  this  unrelenting 
attitude.  Walther  treated  Bach  in  his  Musiklexikon  in  a  strangely  super- 
ficial manner;  he  did  not  even  list  those  works  which  he  himself  had 
received  from  Sebastian.  This  was  not  due  to  an  estrangement,  for  we 
know  from  other  sources1  that  Walther  continued  to  feel  the  greatest 

1  Cf.  Schiinemann  in  BJ,  1933. 

154  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

esteem  for  this  'cousin  and  godfather/  but  as  an  employee  of  the  city  of 
Weimar  he  apparently  had  to  pay  heed  to  the  dictates  of  the  local  censor. 
The  same  official  exercised  his  veto  when,  five  years  later,  Wette  published 
a  history  of  Weimar;  in  it,  among  the  names  of  the  Weimar  court  organ- 
ists, the  one  who  had  conferred  lasting  glory  on  the  town  was  simply  left 

Sebastian  Bach's  determined  defiance  of  his  patron's  wishes  constitutes 
an  important,  though  as  yet  isolated,  landmark  in  the  artists'  fight  for 
social  freedom.  At  this  point  of  his  career  he  certainly  broke  with  the 
family  tradition.  Ambrosius  Bach  and  Johann  Christoph  had  both  been 
forced  to  stay  on  in  Eisenach  against  their  will;  Sebastian  refused  to  be 
cowed  by  similar  restrictions.  How  gleefully  would  his  forebears  have 
applauded  had  they  been  privileged  to  hear  his  'stiff-necked  protestations,' 
which  finally  opened  the  jail  doors  for  him! 



When  Barbara's  seventh  child  was  born,  an  august  group  of  god- 
parents assembled  at  Cothen  for  the  christening;  three  members  of  the 
princely  family  joined  forces  with  a  Court  Councillor  and  the  wife  of  a 
Court  Minister,  both  members  of  the  aristocracy.2  This  fact  clearly  reveals 
Sebastian's  position  at  Cothen.  At  Weimar  such  exalted  godparents  had 
not  been  available  for  any  of  the  six  Bach  children  born  there.  The  Cothen 
Court  Conductor,  however,  was  a  person  of  high  standing.  His  salary  of 
400  thalers  equalled  that  of  the  Court  Marshal,  the  second  highest  official, 
and  his  princely  patron  treated  him  as  a  revered  and  cherished  friend. 
Prince  Leopold,  23  years  old,  and  thus  nine  years  his  conductor's  junior, 
was  a  true  lover  of  the  Muses.  From  a  trip  to  Italy  he  brought  home  valu- 
able objects  of  art,  and  he  greatly  enlarged  the  court  library.  As  regards 
music,  he  was  much  more  than  a  mere  enthusiast.  He  played  with  profes- 
sional skill  the  violin,  viola  da  gamba,  and  clavier;  moreover  he  was  a 
competent  singer  who  had  a  pleasant  baritone  voice.  Sebastian  bestowed 
on  him  the  highest  praise  in  claiming  that  the  Prince  'not  only  loved  but 

1  Significant  is  the  remark  on  the  title-page  of  Wette's  book:  'Unter  hoher  Censur 
und  Bewilligung  des  Hochfiirsd.  Ober-Consistorii  ans  Licht  gestellet.' 

2  The  child  received  with  such  pomp  died  after  ten  months. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    COTHEN    (1717-I723)  155 

knew  music.'  The  profundity  of  Leopold's  understanding  is  indeed  re- 
vealed by  the  works  which  the  new  conductor  wrote  for  his  master.  Com- 
positions such  as  the  sonatas  for  violin  solo  and  the  suites  for  violoncello 
solo  can  be  truly  appreciated  only  by  someone  with  the  deepest  musical 

Under  the  rule  of  Prince  Leopold's  widowed  mother  the  small  court 
of  Cothen  had  been  run  on  strictly  economical  lines;  music  had  hardly  any 
place  in  it,  and  only  three  musicians  had  been  employed  in  the  princely 
service.  As  soon  as  Leopold  came  of  age,  decisive  changes  were  made.  An 
orchestra  of  17  players  was  established,  and  the  Prince  was  fortunate  in 
securing  some  eminent  players  in  Berlin,  where  the  anti-musical  King 
Friedrich  Wilhelm  I  had  dissolved  his  own  band  in  171 3.  When  Bach  took 
over  he  found  a  well-trained  instrumental  body.1  Gradually  fine  instru- 
ments were  purchased  too,  such  as  a  harpsichord,  for  the  acquisition  of 
which  Bach  was  sent  to  Berlin,  and  two  Stainer  violins.  Inspired  by  the 
new  possibilities  thus  opening  to  him,  and  by  his  patron's  passionate 
interest  and  delighted  approval,  Bach  now  created  a  profusion  of  works. 
The  accounts  of  the  bookbinders  who  bound  the  parts  copied  from  Bach's 
scores  attest  the  new  conductor's  frenzy  of  productivity;2  on  the  other 
hand,  the  sums  spent  on  the  acquisition  of  music  from  outside  were  negli- 
gible. A  great  part  of  Bach's  output  in  these  years  is  lost;  but  what  has 
been  preserved — works  like  the  suites  for  orchestra  and  the  Brandenburg 
Concertos — reflect  the  exuberance  of  an  artist  discovering  new  means  of 
expression,  and  the  peace  of  mind  of  the  composer  who  had  found  real 
understanding  and  appreciation  in  his  new  patron.3  Peaceful  indeed  were 
these  first  years  at  Cothen,  and  this,  significantly  enough,  in  spite  of  the  fact 
that  the  little  residence  itself  was  by  no  means  free  from  the  religious  dissen- 
sions prevalent  in  Bach's  time.The  Prince's  parents  had  belonged  to  different 

1  There  were  8  soloists,  designated  as  'chamber  musicians,'  mentioned  in  the 
accounts;  they  received  higher  salaries  than  the  ripienists.  The  soloists  took  care  of  the 
following  instruments:  2  violins,  1  'cello,  1  viola  da  gamba,  1  oboe,  1  bassoon,  2  flutes. 
The  lack  of  a  chamber  musician  for  the  viola  is  explained  by  Bach's  predilection  for  the 
instrument,  a  predilection  which  Emanuel  reported  to  Forkel.  Among  the  players,  Christian 
Ferdinand  Abel  should  be  mentioned;  he  was  the  father  of  Carl  Friedrich  Abel,  whom  we 
shall  later  meet  in  London  as  the  partner  of  Johann  Christian  Bach.  Sebastian's  violoncello 
suites  were  probably  written  for  the  elder  Abel. 

2  Smend,  who  carefully  went  through  the  accounts  in  the  Landesarchiv  Sachsen- 
Anhalt  at  Oranienbaum,  estimates  that  in  1719-20  at  least  50  works  of  ensemble  music 
must  have  been  bound.  Cf.  his  'Bach  in  Kothen,'  Berlin,  195 1. 

3  Smend  has  proved  that  Bach  also  composed  a  number  of  cantatas  in  Cothen,  some 
for  the  Prince's  birthday,  some  for  New  Year's  Day  and  similar  occasions.  In  some  cases 
this  music  was  later  used  for  church  cantatas  of  the  Leipzig  period  (cf.  Nos.  32,  66,  120, 
134,  173,  184),  while  the  music  of  others  is  lost. 

156  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

— •  "* 

denominations.  His  father  had  fallen  in  love  and  married  Gisela  Agnes  v. 
Rath,  although  this  was  socially  and  religiously  a  mesalliance;  for  his  bride 
came  from  the  ranks  of  the  lesser  nobility  and  was  a  Lutheran,  while  he  him- 
self, like  the  majority  of  the  Duchy's  population,  belonged  to  the  Reformed 
Calvinistic  Church.  Neither  of  the  two  partners  changed  his  or  her  reli- 
gious adherence,  and  Gisela  Agnes  did  her  best  to  obtain  privileges  for  her 
fellow  Lutherans.  Yielding  to  her  persuasion,  the  happy  husband  allowed 
a  Lutheran  church  and  school  to  be  built  in  Cothen,  thus  provoking  the 
wrath  of  his  own  Consistory.  Heated  feuds  raged  over  the  allotment  of 
church  taxes,  the  use  of  the  Calvinistic  church  bells,  etc.,  and  finally 
appeals  to  revoke  the  Prince's  decisions  were  made  even  to  the  Emperor. 
When  the  young  Prince  Leopold  assumed  the  government,  he  confirmed 
his  father's  policy,  claiming  that  the  'greatest  happiness  of  his  subjects 
depended  on  their  freedom  of  conscience  being  safeguarded.'  A  very  en- 
lightened point  of  view,  to  be  sure,  but  unfortunately  one  that  was  not 
shared  by  the  majority  of  the  citizens.  Thus  at  the  time  when  Bach  came 
to  Cothen  religious  quarrels  and  disputes  had  by  no  means  abated.  The 
Sebastian  of  Miihlhausen  would  have  felt  in  duty  bound  to  take  up  the 
cudgels  and  fight  for  his  own  denomination.  Not  so  the  Cothen  court 
conductor.  For  the  time  being  he  was  much  more  interested  in  musical 
than  in  religious  problems.  From  the  outset  he  had  been  aware  that  he 
would  find  a  religiously  uncongenial  atmosphere  at  the  Cothen  court,  and 
he  had  decided  to  take  this  in  his  stride.  Naturally  he  never  conceived 
the  idea  of  adopting  his  patron's  religion.  On  the  other  hand,  he  did 
not  intercede  in  favour  of  his  fellow  Lutherans.  He  contented  himself 
with  attending  the  Lutheran  church  and  sending  his  children  to  the 
Lutheran  school.  Beyond  that  he  let  things  alone,  and  was  very  happy 
indeed  in  his  artistic  work  and  in  the  economic  and  social  prestige  he 
had  achieved. 

A  new  source  of  satisfaction  was  opening  to  him  in  his  children.  By 
now  it  had  become  clear  that  the  eldest  son,  Wilhelm  Friedemann, 
possessed  great  talent,  and  the  father  decided  to  train  him  in  earnest.  On 
January  22,  1720,  when  Friedemann  was  nine  and  a  half,  Sebastian  started 
a  'clavier  book'  for  him,  which  was  subsequently  to  be  used  for  all  the  Bach 
children,  and  for  other  pupils  as  well.  It  is  a  most  interesting  document  on 
Sebastian  Bach  the  teacher,  revealing  his  methodical  mind  and  revolu- 
tionary fingering  (cf.  p.  265).  This  Clavier bilchlein  belonged  to  the  series 
of  books  of  instructive  keyboard  music  already  started  in  Weimar,  a 
series  which  comprised  such  masterworks  as  the  Orgelbiichlein,  the  Inven- 
tions, and  the  Well-Tempered  Clavier.  The  master  apparently  enjoyed 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    COTHEN    (1717-1723)  157 

creative  work  which  served  educational  purposes,  occupying  in  this  re- 
spect a  unique  position  among  the  great  composers.  The  planning  of  a 
systematic  course  of  instruction  satisfied  his  keen  and  logical  mind.  His 
creative  fire  was  always  kindled  by  self-imposed  restrictions,  and  the 
challenge  afforded  him  by  the  solution  of  certain  problems  of  teaching 
inspired  him  to  real  works  of  art.  Forkel,  relying  on  the  testimony  of 
Philip  Emanuel  Bach,  described  Sebastian's  method  as  clavier  instructor 
as  follows: 

'The  first  thing  he  did  was  to  teach  his  pupils  his  peculiar  mode  of 
touching  the  keyboard.  For  this  purpose  he  made  them  practise  for 
months  nothing  but  isolated  exercises  for  all  the  fingers  of  both  hands, 
with  constant  regard  to  the  production  of  a  clean,  clear  tone.  Over  a 
period  of  some  months  no  pupil  was  excused  from  these  exercises,  and, 
according  to  his  firm  opinion,  they  should  be  continued  for  six  to  twelve 
months  at  least.  But  if  he  found  that  anyone,  after  some  months  of  prac- 
tice, began  to  lose  patience,  he  was  so  considerate  as  to  write  little  connect- 
ing pieces,  in  which  these  exercises  were  linked  together.  To  this  type 
belong  the  six  little  Preludes  for  beginners,  and  still  more  the  fifteen  two- 
part  Inventions.  He  wrote  down  both  during  the  hours  of  teaching,  and, 
in  so  doing,  attended  to  the  immediate  requirement  of  the  pupil;  after- 
wards he  transformed  these  pieces  into  beautiful  and  expressive  little 
works  of  art.  With  the  finger  training  was  combined  the  practice  of  all 
the  ornaments  in  both  hands.  After  this  he  set  his  pupils  to  the  task  of 
studying  his  own  greater  compositions,  which,  as  he  well  knew,  would 
give  them  the  best  means  of  exercising  their  powers.  In  order  to  lessen  the 
difficulties,  he  made  use  of  an  excellent  method;  this  was  to  play  to  them 
the  whole  piece  which  they  were  to  study  first,  saying:  "This  is  how  it 
must  sound."  * 

That  some  pupils  lost  patience  during  these  first  hard  months  seems 
understandable.  That  the  teacher  did  not  strikes  one  as  amazing.  Did  Bach 
not  feel  that  he  could  use  his  time  better  than  by  watching  beginners 
struggling  with  their  first  exercises?  Apparently  he  did  not.  To  a  great 
extent  he  regarded  music  as  a  craft,  and  in  instructing  his  'apprentices'  he 
acted  as  generations  of  Bach  musicians  had  done  before  him.  However, 
he  exhibited  such  patience  only  with  gifted  pupils.  Lack  of  talent  and  a 
lukewarm  attitude  towards  his  craft  made  his  temper  boil  over.  He  was 
the  perfect  teacher  for  talented  youths,  but  he  was  unable  to  put  up  with 

There  was,  to  be  sure,  no  musical  mediocrity  in  Sebastian's  children; 

158  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

they  were,  as  he  proudly  wrote,  'all  born  musicians,'  and  their  instruction 
was  a  delight  to  their  father.  To  the  student  of  hereditary  problems  Sebas- 
tian's sons  are  a  strange  and  puzzling  phenomenon  indeed.  They  seem  to 
disprove  the  theory  of  Wilhelm  Ostwald  that  a  genius  uses  up  all  the 
latent  creative  and  spiritual  forces  inherited  from  ancestors,  and  is  thus 
unable  to  produce  a  genius  himself.  Perhaps  this  exception  to  the  general 
rule  is  explained  by  the  enormous  musical  inheritance  piled  up  in  the  Bach 
family,  an  inheritance  which  even  Sebastian  could  not  entirely  exhaust; 
and,  moreover,  by  the  fact  that  the  musical  inheritance  of  his  two  wives 
was  only  latent,  and  they  were  thus  able  to  hand  it  on  in  full  strength  to 
their  own  great  sons. 

In  July  1720,  when  Friedemann  had  reached  his  tenth  year,  an  event 
occurred  that  tragically  broke  up  the  Bach  idyllic  existence  in  Cothen. 
While  Sebastian  was  at  the  Bohemian  spa  of  Carlsbad,  accompanying  his 
patron,  who  did  not  want  to  forgo  the  enjoyment  of  chamber  music  while 
taking  the  waters,  Barbara  Bach  was  suddenly  prostrated  by  illness.  There 
was  not  even  enough  time  to  summon  her  husband;  when  he  returned  in 
high  spirits,  a  scene  of  desolation  greeted  him,  and  he  had  to  be  told  that 
his  beloved  wife  had  died  and  been  buried.  The  children,  aged  12,  10,  6, 
and  5,  had  lost  their  mother,  and  Sebastian  was  without  the  devoted 
companion  who  had  shared  courageously  the  vicissitudes  of  his  early 
struggles.  This  was  indeed  a  cruel  fall  from  security  and  gaiety  to  loneli- 
ness and  grief,  and  to  bear  it  he  needed  all  the  spiritual  resources  which 
his  faith  provided.  To  Sebastian  Bach  death  had  always  seemed  as  a 
release  fervently  to  be  longed  for,  which  in  destroying  the  body  would 
simultaneously  relieve  the  soul  of  its  sins.  Death  was  for  him  not  the  end, 
but  the  culmination  of  spiritual  life.  Possibly  during  the  first  joyful  years 
spent  at  Cothen  he  had  to  some  extent  put  aside  such  thoughts.  Now, 
however,  he  turned  to  them  again,  and  religious  experiences  assumed 
their  old  significance  for  him.  He  began  to  realize  that  for  all  the  pleasure 
he  derived  from  the  association  with  his  beloved  patron,  there  was  some- 
thing lacking  in  his  existence  at  Cothen,  and  he  was  again  filled  with  a 
longing  to  express  his  innermost  faith  through  church  music.  Just  at  that 
time  the  organist  of  Hamburg's  Jakobikirche  died,  and  8  musicians, 
among  them  Sebastian  Bach,  were  invited  to  compete  for  the  position. 
To  Sebastian  Hamburg  was  still  hallowed  by  the  youthful  impressions  he 
received  there,  and  eagerly  he  travelled  to  the  Northern  city  to  find  out 
more  about  the  vacancy.  He  learned  that  the  trial  performances  were  to 
take  place  on  November  28,  and  that  three  Hamburg  organists,  among 
them  venerable  Reinken,  had  been  named  adjudicators.  The  date  did  not 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    COTHEN   (1717-I723)  159 

suit  Bach,  who  had  to  return  earlier  to  Cothen  for  the  celebration  of  his 
patron's  birthday,  but  he  arranged  to  play  before  that  day  on  Reinken's 
organ  in  the  Catharinenkirche.  Out  of  courtesy  to  the  veteran  master  he 
chose  as  subject  for  his  improvisations  the  very  same  chorale  An  IVasser- 
flilssen  Babylons  which  in  Reinken's  dazzling  treatment  had  held  young 
Sebastian  spellbound  some  twenty  years  previously.  For  a  long  time  he 
played,  piling  one  gigantic  structure  on  the  other  and  revealing  his 
stupendous  mastery.  Finally  Reinken,  who  as  a  rule  did  not  indulge 
in  praise  of  other  musicians,  exclaimed:  'I  thought  this  art  was  dead,  but  I 
see  it  still  lives  in  you.'  Whether  the  Necrolog  (cf.  p.  122)  is  right  in 
reporting  that  Bach  played  'before  the  Magistrate  and  many  other  distin- 
guished persons  of  the  town,  to  their  general  astonishment,'  or  whether 
the  master  performed  only  to  the  three  musical  experts,  is  not  known. 
Anyway  there  is  no  doubt  that  the  Hamburg  Council  favoured  his  appoint- 
ment. But  there  was  one  serious  drawback.  Sebastian  was  informed  during 
his  visit  that  it  was  customary  at  Hamburg  to  sell  certain  offices  to  the 
highest  bidder;  even  in  the  churches  a  newly  appointed  employee  was 
expected  to  make  a  handsome  payment.  A  passage  in  the  minutes  of  the 
meeting  determining  the  policy  regarding  the  election  of  the  new  organist 
for  the  Jakobikirche  reads  thus:  'The  capacity  of  the  candidate  should  be 
considered  more  than  the  payment,  but  if  the  chosen  candidate  of  his  own 
free  will  desires  to  make  a  contribution  as  a  token  of  his  gratitude,  it  will 
be  accepted  for  the  benefit  of  the  church.'  In  spite  of  such  cautious 
language  it  was  clear  to  everybody  concerned  that  such  'voluntary'  pay- 
ment could  not  be  dispensed  with.  This  must  have  displeased  Sebastian 
greatly.  He  probably  did  not  have  the  money  available,  but  even  if  he  had, 
it  would  have  been  a  matter  of  pride  for  him  not  to  pay  for  a  position  in 
which  he  would  make  an  outstanding  contribution  to  the  religious  life  of 
Hamburg.  He  left  the  town  promising  to  write  to  the  Council;  and  the 
decisive  board  meeting  was  postponed  for  a  whole  week  until  the  arrival 
of  Bach's  letter.  The  contents  cannot  have  been  encouraging,  for  after 
reading  the  letter  the  committee  decided  to  appoint  a  certain  Johann 
Joachim  Heitmann,  who  acknowledged  his  gratitude  by  paying  the  tidy 
little  sum  of  4000  Marks.  The  pastor  of  the  church,  Erdmann 
Neumeister  (famous  for  his  outstanding  cantata  texts,  several  of  which 
Bach  had  set  to  music)  was  disgusted  indeed  with  the  affair.  As  this 
happened  shortly  before  Christmas,  he  found  a  chance  of  airing  his 
grievance  in  the  festival  sermon.  Speaking  eloquently  of  the  angelic  music 
at  the  birth  of  Christ,  he  remarked  acidly  that  if  one  of  those  angels  came 
down  from  Heaven  wishing  to  become  an  organist  at  his  church  and 


l6o  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

played  divinely,  but  had  no  cash,  he  might  just  as  well  fly  away  again, 
for  they  would  not  accept  him  in  Hamburg. 

On  his  return  from  Hamburg,  Bach  set  to  work  on  a  meticulous  copy 
of  six  orchestral  concertos  which  he  sent  in  March  1721,  with  a  courteous 
French  dedication,  to  Christian  Ludwig,  Margrave  of  Brandenburg,  whom 
he  had  probably  met  on  one  of  his  visits  to  Carlsbad.  The  works  had  been 
written  for,  and  performed  by,  the  excellent  Cothen  orchestra,  as  is  proved 
by  many  details  of  orchestration  (cf.  p.  286).  Margrave  Christian  Ludwig, 
however,  had  no  musical  resources  of  the  kind  available,  and  it  is  not 
surprising  that  Bach's  score  was  never  used  at  his  court.1 

At  this  time  the  composer  was  also  deeply  engrossed  in  his  work  on 
the  first  set  of  the  Well-Tempered  Clavier.  Such  creative  activities  helped 
to  heal  the  wound  inflicted  by  Barbara's  death  and  made  Bach  ready  to 
face  the  necessity  for  establishing  a  new  home.  Remarrying  after  a  very 
short  lapse  of  time  was  the  general  custom  in  his  family  (and  indeed  in  his 
time),  and  it  proves  Bach's  deep  attachment  to  Barbara  that  he  waited 
from  June  1720  to  December  1721  before  entering  holy  matrimony  again. 
His  bride,  Anna  Magdalena  Wilcken,  the  daughter  of  a  court  trumpeter, 
then  20  years  old,  was  descended  from  musicians  on  both  paternal  and 
maternal  sides;  and  in  her  own  right  she  was  an  excellent  soprano  singer, 
who  since  the  autumn  of  1720  had  been  employed  by  the  Cothen  court, 
where  she  had  appeared  as  a  guest  as  early  as  171 6.  The  young  singer 
retained  her  position  after  she  married  the  court  conductor,  and  earned 
half  as  much  as  her  husband.  The  disparity  in  age  between  the  girl  of  20 
and  the  man  of  36  was  balanced  on  the  other  hand  by  their  common 
profession.  Magdalena  may  well  have  been  more  interested  in  operatic 
music  than  her  husband  (it  was  her  youngest  son  who  was  the  only  one  of 
Sebastian's  children  to  become  a  successful  opera  composer),  but  she  was 
certainly  able  to  appreciate  Sebastian's  greatness,  and  young  enough  to 
adopt  his  own  artistic  creed.  When  she  started  her  married  life,  Magdalena 
must  have  been  afraid  of  her  new  responsibilities,  which  included  looking 
after  four  stepchildren,  the  eldest  of  whom  was  a  girl  only  seven  years  her 
junior.  We  don't  know  how  her  young  charges  acted  towards  her.  In  the 
case  of  the  eldest  boy,  Friedemann,  then  11  years  old,  the  possibility 
cannot  be  excluded  that  he  resented  seeing  his  mother  supplanted  by  a 
stranger,  and  that  this  experience  contributed  to  the  shaping  of  his  very 
problematical  personality.  But  while  we  are  in  the  dark  as  to  her  step- 
children's attitude,  we  do  know  that  for  her  husband  Magdalena  succeeded 

1  When  the  Margrave  died  in  1734,  the  autograph  of  the  six  Brandenburg  Concertos 
was  valued  at  24  gr.,  a  little  less  than  a  dollar. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    COTHEN    (1717-1723)  l6l 

in  creating  a  cheerful,  comfortable  home.  Visiting  musicians  and  an  end- 
less stream  of  kinsfolk  were  received  cordially,  and  felt  happy  with  the 
Sebastian  Bachs.  Magdalena  knew  the  secret  of  enjoying  the  simplest 
pleasures  with  all  her  heart.  Once  when  she  received  a  present  of  six 
carnation  plants,  she  'treasured  them  more  highly  than  children  do  their 
Christmas  presents  and  tended  them  with  the  care  usually  bestowed  on 
babies.'1  This  disposition  helped  her  a  great  deal  in  a  life  that  was  filled 
to  the  brim  with  the  duties  of  running  a  large  household  most  thriftily,  a 
life  in  which  she  had  to  go  through  the  ordeal  of  child-bearing  thirteen 
times,  and  seven  times  saw  a  child  of  hers  carried  to  the  grave.  How 
Sebastian  on  such  occasions  tried  to  instil  courage  into  her  suffering  heart 
is  revealed  in  Magdalena's  music  book,  which  he  presented  to  her  in  1725. 
Three  times  he  wrote  into  it  a  different  version  of  his  aria  based  on  Paul 
Gerhardt's  hymn  'Fret  not,  my  soul,  on  God  rely,'  meant  to  lift  her  out 
of  the  day's  turmoil  with  simple  and  deeply  felt  music.  The  little  book 
also  contains  a  song  which  Sebastian  clearly  intended  for  his  wife: 

If  thou  be  n'ear,  I  go  rejoicing 
To  peace  and  rest  beyond  the  skies, 
Nor  will  I  fear  what  may  befall  me, 
For  I  will  hear  thy  sweet  voice  call  me, 
Thy  gende  hand  will  close  my  eyes. 

The  sincerity  and  warmth  of  the  composer's  feelings  are  evident  to  any- 
one listening  to  the  heartfelt  tune.  Most  likely  the  poem  too  was  by  Sebas- 
tian, who  found  it  quite  natural  to  link  an  expression  of  love  to  the  idea 
of  death. 

Whether  Magdalena  was  able  to  follow  him  in  such  thoughts  we  do 
not  know.  Maybe  she  was  too  young  and  too  firmly  rooted  in  the  material 
world  to  understand  her  husband's  intense  preoccupation  with  death.  Yet 
she  could  not  help  delighting  in  the  deep  love  expressed  in  such  personal 
messages.  This  love,  together  with  her  genuine  admiration  of  Sebastian's 
creative  work,  helped  her  through  the  many  professional  crises  that  Sebas- 
tian's stubbornness  and  pugnaciousness  created  for  them  through  their 
29  years  of  married  life. 

We  know  nothing  of  Magdalena's  appearance.  Her  husband  had  her 
painted  by  Cristofori — at  that  time  quite  an  unusual  distinction  for  a 
woman  of  her  social  standing — but  the  portrait,  which  was  listed  in 
Emanuel's  collection,  has  been  lost.  So  we  must  content  ourselves  with  the 
mental  picture  of  a  hard-working,  warm-hearted,  and  highly  musical 

1  Cf.  the  letters  of  Johann  Elias  Bach  reproduced  by  Pottgiesser  in  'Die  Musik,' 


l62  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

woman;  a  true  helpmeet  to  her  husband,  glorying  in  his  artistic  achieve- 
ments, painstakingly  copying  his  music  in  a  handwriting  which  gradually 
assumed  the  features  of  Sebastian's  own  hand,  and  sharing  with  fortitude 
the  burdens  which  life  imposed  on  them. 

Shortly  after  they  were  married,  the  outward  conditions  of  Bach's 
existence  underwent  a  decisive  change.  Up  to  that  time,  as  he  stated  in  a 
letter  to  his  old  friend,  Erdmann  (cf.  p.  180),  he  had  intended  to  spend  the 
rest  of  his  life  in  the  service  of  Prince  Leopold.  Now,  however,  the  Prince 
gave  up  his  bachelor  existence  and  married  a  Princess  of  Anhalt-Bernburg. 
Even  before  the  ceremony,  the  happy  bridegroom  had  been  so  occupied 
with  redecorating  his  quarters,  creating  a  new  'princely  guard,'  whose 
exercises  and  parades  he  attended,  and  preparing  for  the  festivities  which 
were  to  last  through  five  weeks,  that  he  was  unable  to  give  much  thought 
to  music.  And  when  things  finally  calmed  down  at  Cothen,  life  assumed  a 
different  aspect.  The  young  Princess  was,  according  to  Bach's  verdict,  an 
'amusa,'  a  person  without  love  for  music  or  art.  Not  only  was  she  in  her 
disposition  quite  unsuited  to  share  her  husband's  greatest  predilections, 
she  was  even  unwilling  to  try.  She  was  probably  somewhat  jealous  of  the 
court  conductor's  influence  on  the  Prince,  and  anxious  to  break  up  this 
close  relationship.  Gradually  music  was  removed  from  the  centre  of  the 
Prince's  activities  and  Bach  felt  neglected  and  somewhat  superfluous.  As 
months  went  by  and  Leopold  maintained  his  'somewhat  lukewarm'  atti- 
tude, his  conductor  began  to  ask  himself  whether  under  such  conditions 
it  was  worth  while  to  stay  at  the  little  court.  Would  not  a  position  with 
wider  responsibilities,  in  particular  one  where  he  could  again  serve  the 
Lord  in  a  church,  and  through  the  power  of  his  music  lead  a  large  congre- 
gation towards  Christ,  give  him  deeper  satisfaction?  He  had  also  to  con- 
sider his  boys;  he  was  determined  that  they  should  enjoy  the  benefits  of 
the  University  education  of  which  he  himself  had  been  deprived.  Thus  he 
gradually  began  to  familiarize  himself  with  the  idea  that  the  secluded  and 
secure  existence  in  Cothen  had  only  been  a  happy  interlude  ultimately 
to  be  exchanged  for  the  weightier  duties  and  inevitable  struggles  of 
a  position  in  a  more  important  musical  centre. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    LEIPZIG    (1723-1750)  163 




Johannes  (2) 

Johann  (4)  Christoph  (5) 

1604-73  1613-61 

J.  Egidius  (8) 
1645-1716  J.  Ambrosius  (11) 

I  1645-95 

J.  Bernhard  (18) 

1 676- 1 749 

j  J.  Sebastian  (24)= Anna  Magdalena  Wilcken 

J.  Ernst  (34)  1685-1750  1701-60 


Gottfr.  Heinr.  (48) 


J.  Christ.  Friedr.  (49) 


J.  Caroline 

Elisabeth  J.  F.  J.  Christian  (50)  Regine  Susanna 

1726-81  1735-82  1742-1809 

m.  J.  C.  Altnikol 

The  manner  in  which  Sebastian  Bach  received  his  appointment  in  Leip- 
zig supplies  a  leitmotiv  for  the  27  years  he  was  destined  to  spend  there. 
He  offered  his  services  reluctantly,  and  was  accepted  reluctantly,  with 
Councillor  Platz's  comment,  memorable  for  its  very  incongruity:  'Since  we 
cannot  get  the  best  man,  we  shall  have  to  be  satisfied  with  a  mediocre  one.' 

When  the  great  Johann  Kuhnau  died  on  June  5,  1722,  the  question  of 
his  successor  in  the  post  of  the  Leipzig  Thomas  Cantor  occupied  the  minds 
of  musicians  all  over  the  country.  In  Protestant  Germany  the  position, 
combined  as  it  was  with  the  musical  directorship  of  Leipzig's  churches, 
enjoyed  a  very  high  prestige;  for  Leipzig  at  that  time  was  a  bastion  of 
Protestantism,  a  city  where  religion  was  a  living,  driving  force.1  Ever 

1  The  abundance  of  services  offered  in  Leipzig  was  characteristic  of  the  time.  On 
Sunday,  worship  at  St.  Thomas'  and  St.  Nicholas'  occupied  the  greater  part  of  the  day.  It 
started  with  early  Matins,  followed  by  the  main  service  lasting  from  7  to  11  a.m.  Half  an 
hour  later  the  noon  service  took  place,  and  at  1.30  p.m.  vespers  followed,  which  took  up 
about  2  hours.  On  every  weekday  there  was  a  service  at  6.45  a.m.  in  one  of  the  main 
churches  and  an  hour  of  prayer  in  the  afternoon.  On  Saturday  at  2  p.m.  a  very  important 
service  was  held  in  preparation  for  the  communicants  of  the  following  Sunday.  To  dis- 
charge these  extensive  duties,  no  less  than  five  ministers  were  officiating  at  St.  Thomas' 
as  well  as  at  St.  Nicholas'.  The  other  churches,  too,  engaged  a  comparatively  large 
amount  of  clergy  to  satisfy  the  spiritual  needs  of  this  city  of  30,000  people. 

164  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

since  its  foundation  in  1212  the  Alumnate  (choir-school)  of  St.  Thomas' 
had  supplied  singers  for  the  church  services,  and  the  venerable  insti- 
tution could  look  back  with  pride  on  a  line  of  great  Cantors  (among 
them  the  illustrious  Johann  Hermann  Schein),  whose  creative  work 
had  greatly  contributed  to  the  growth  of  German  music.  The  opening 
in  Leipzig  seemed  to  offer  all  that  Bach  had  been  missing  in  Cothen. 
Nevertheless  it  took  Sebastian  six  months  to  make  up  his  mind  about 
the  desirability  of  the  position,  and  he  was  first  mentioned  as  an  appli- 
cant in  December  1722.  The  reasons  for  his  long  pondering  were 

From  a  previous  visit  to  Leipzig  in  1 717,  and  from  his  intercourse  with 
Kuhnau,  Bach  was  fully  aware  that  the  Thomas  Cantor's  position  was 
altogether  different  from  his  present  one.  While  the  Cothen  Kapell- 
meister had  to  comply  with  the  wishes  of  a  single  patron,  the  Thomas 
Cantor  had  something  like  two  dozen  superiors.  In  his  educational  work 
he  had  to  conform  to  the  ruling  of  the  rector  of  the  school.  But  the 
running  of  the  institute  was  in  the  hands  of  the  City  Council,  consisting 
of  three  burgomasters,  two  deputy  burgomasters,  and  ten  assessors;  and 
it  was  this  body  of  fifteen  which  engaged  the  Thomas  Cantor  and  kept  a 
check  on  all  his  activities.  Finally,  there  was  the  ecclesiastical  authority  of 
the  Consistorium,  which  was  responsible  for  the  services  in  the  churches, 
and  became  therefore  the  chief  arbiter  in  all  matters  concerning  the  music 
to  be  offered  by  the  Thomas  Cantor  in  his  capacity  as  church  music 
director.  To  be  dependent  on  these  different  governing  bodies,  which,  as 
might  be  imagined,  would  not  always  live  in  perfect  harmony,  did  not 
seem  too  pleasant  a  prospect  for  any  man,  least  of  all  for  one  who  had  so 
little  of  the  diplomat  in  his  character.  There  was  also  the  matter  of  social 
rank,  to  which  Sebastian  was  by  no  means  insensitive.  According  to  the 
general  view,  a  court  conductor  was  on  a  higher  social  level  than  a  Cantor, 
and  Sebastian  found  it  somewhat  strange  (as  he  admitted  to  his  old  friend, 
Erdmann)  to  climb  down  the  ladder.  As  to  financial  considerations,  he 
did  hope  to  earn  more  in  Leipzig  than  in  Cothen,  but  the  former  pleasant 
feeling  of  security  would  be  lacking.  The  basic  salary  in  Leipzig  was  low, 
not  more  than  100  fl.  a  year,  less  than  one-fourth  of  what  Prince  Leopold 
paid  his  conductor.  To  it  were  added  the  Accidentien,  a  certain  percentage 
of  the  statutory  fee  for  funerals,  weddings,  etc.,  and  one-fourth  of  the 
weekly  tuition  fee  of  six  pennies  which  the  boarders  had  to  pay,  and  which, 
when  lacking  funds,  they  collected  every  week  from  charitable  families. 
The  Cantor's  income  might  grow  out  of  pennies  and  farthings  to  the  sum 
of  700  thalers,  but  there  was  no  certainty  about  it;  and  when  'a  healthy 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    LEIPZIG    (1723-1750)  165 

wind  was  blowing'1  and  the  death-rate  went  down,  the  receipts  showed  a 
sad  decline. 

Anna  Magdalena  Bach  may  have  felt  even  more  reluctant  than  her 
husband  to  go  to  Leipzig.  At  Cothen  she  held  a  good  position  as  court 
singer,  which  brought  her  a  yearly  salary  of  200  thalers.  In  Leipzig  she 
would  be  deprived  of  an  artistic  career  and  an  income  of  her  own.  The 
wife  of  the  Thomas  Cantor  would  have  to  lead  a  very  secluded  and  un- 
obtrusive existence.  She  might  enjoy  singing  Sebastian's  music  in  the 
privacy  of  their  own  home,  but  it  would  be  utterly  out  of  the  question  for 
her  to  undertake  a  solo  in  a  church,  in  which  women  were  not  allowed  to 
perform.  Thus  to  the  young  singer  the  removal  to  Leipzig  would  mean 
the  renunciation  of  any  professional  activity  of  her  own. 

And  yet,  in  spite  of  such  various  misgivings,  Sebastian  was  drawn 
towards  the  new  position.  At  St.  Thomas',  and  subsequently  at  the  re- 
nowned University  of  Leipzig,  his  gifted  sons  would  be  given  the  right 
kind  of  education,  which  provincial  Cothen  was  unable  to  offer.  He  him- 
self would  be  in  entire  charge  of  the  church  music  of  an  important  city, 
and  would  thus  be  able  to  make  his  ideas  for  its  improvement  become 
reality.  Tremendous  forces  within  him  urgently  sought  release  in  the 
composition  of  sacred  music,  forces  which  burst  forth  triumphantly  in  the 
'Passion  according  to  St.  John'  which  he  was  writing  for  Leipzig.  After 
months  of  wavering,  the  voices  of  caution  were  silenced,  and  Bach, 
driven  by  his  daemon,  decided  on  the  Leipzig  position  in  order  to  fulfil 
his  artistic  destiny. 

In  the  six  months  since  Kuhnau's  passing,  the  Leipzig  Council  had 
been  singularly  unsuccessful  in  their  attempts  to  secure  a  suitable  Thomas 
Cantor.  At  first  matters  had  seemed  to  shape  just  perfectly.  Among  the 
six  applicants  was  Georg  Philipp  Telemann,  newly  appointed  Music 
Director  and  Cantor  of  Hamburg;  from  his  former  activities  as  organist  of 
Leipzig's  New  Church,  as  a  composer  of,  and  singer  in,  popular  operas, 
and  as  an  extremely  successful  conductor  of  a  Collegium  Musicum,  he 
was  very  dear  to  the  Leipzig  citizens.  The  Council  was  delighted  to 
acquire  so  spectacular  a  musician  and,  the  day  after  he  had  conducted  a 
cantata  of  his  own  composition  in  Leipzig,2  voted  unanimously  for 
his  appointment.  Telemann,  noticing  Leipzig's  eagerness,  managed 
to  obtain  important  concessions.  He  caused  the  city  fathers  to  waive 

1  Cf.  Bach's  letter  to  Erdmann  of  1730,  in  which  he  complained  about  this,  for  him, 
unfavourable  wind. 

2  The  Council  even  printed  the  libretto  of  this  cantata  for  the  use  of  the 

l66  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

one  part  of  the  Thomas  Cantor's  statutory  duties,  viz.  the  teaching 
of  Latin  in  certain  classes,  and  he  secured  the  musical  directorship  of  the 
University  Church.  Armed  thus  with  all  the  requirements  necessary  for  a 
satisfactory  position  in  Leipzig,  he  returned  to  Hamburg  to  press  for  a 
higher  salary.  His  policy  proved  successful,  and  the  badly  disappointed 
Leipzig  Council  had  to  continue  their  search.  Yet  when  Sebastian  Bach 
made  his  application  in  December  1722  he  was  not  considered  the  most 
desirable  of  the  candidates.  There  was  Christoph  Graupner,  who,  as  a 
former  pupil  of  St.  Thomas'  and  the  highly  renowned  conductor  of  the 
Prince  of  Hesse's  orchestra  in  Darmstadt,  seemed  much  better  qualified. 
Graupner  was  invited  to  direct  the  Christmas  music  (including  a  Magni- 
ficat of  his  own),  and  some  weeks  later  to  conduct  a  cantata,  all  of  which 
he  did  with  so  much  success  that  the  position  was  offered  him.  But 
Leipzig  had  bad  luck  again,  for  this  desirable  candidate  was  also  unable  to 
accept.  The  Prince  of  Hesse  firmly  refused  to  let  his  conductor  go,  and 
as  he  added  very  strong  arguments  in  the  form  of  a  rise  of  salary  and  a 
munificent  gift,  Graupner  was  not  too  reluctant  to  stay  in  Darmstadt.  He 
explained  the  situation  to  the  Leipzig  Council  and  warmly  recommended 
Bach  as  a  musician  as  competent  on  the  organ  as  he  was  in  directing  church 
and  orchestra  music.  By  the  time  the  letter  arrived,  it  was  outdated  by  the 
recent  events.  Bach  was  no  longer  a  stranger  to  the  Leipzig  community. 
He  had  performed  the  required  'trial  cantata'  of  his  own,  probably  singing 
the  bass  solo  himself,1  and  he  had,  moreover,  presented  his  St.  John 
Passion  on  Good  Friday.  The  Council  was  now  determined  to  engage 
Bach  in  the  event  of  Graupner's  refusal. 

Their  initial  lack  of  enthusiasm  for  the  Cothen  candidate  is  not  hard 
to  understand.  Bach's  tremendous  fame  as  an  organist  did  not  count  for 
much,  as  the  Thomas  Cantor  was  not  supposed  to  play  this  instrument.  Of 
Bach's  creative  work  the  Council  could  know  nothing,  for  no  composition 
of  his  except  the  two  Miihlhausen  cantatas  had  ever  been  printed.  In  the  eyes 
of  the  Leipzig  authorities,  a  candidate's  present  position  was  of  paramount 
importance,  and  it  cannot  be  denied  that  the  conductor  of  the  tiny  court 
of  Cothen  enjoyed  less  prestige  than  the  Hamburg  or  Darmstadt  music 
directors.  Finally,  Bach  seemed  inferior  to  the  majority  of  former 
Thomas  Cantors  by  his  lack  of  a  University  education.  Kuhnau,  for 
instance,  had  been  a  successful  lawyer  before  being  appointed  to  St. 
Thomas',  and  had  published  masterly  translations  from  the  Greek  and 

1  It  was  the  Cantata  No.  22,  Jesus  nahm  \u  sich  die  Zwolfe,  in  which  the  bass  solos 
are  unusually  high,  in  accordance  with  the  composer's  own  voice.  Cf.  Schering,  'J.  S.  Bach 
und  das  Musikleben  Leipzigs  im  18.  Jahrhundert,'  Leipzig,  1941. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    LEIPZIG    (1723-1750)  167 

Hebrew.  Compared  with  him,  Sebastian  Bach  could  hardly  be  called 
erudite.  On  the  other  hand,  the  Council  was  thoroughly  tired  of  the  un- 
settled conditions  that  had  prevailed  since  Kuhnau's  death,  in  which  the 
church  music  had  suffered,  and  so  it  was  willing  to  engage  Bach.  This 
time,  however,  they  wanted  to  take  precautions  against  another  failure, 
and  Bach  was  requested  to  supply  a  letter  of  dismissal  from  his  patron 
before  the  final  election  took  place.  Prince  Leopold,  though  grieved  at  his 
conductor's  decision,  was  certainly  not  going  to  put  any  obstacles  in  his 
way,  and  wrote  a  very  gracious  testimonial  for  the  'respectable  and 
learned  J.  S.  Bach.'  Another  point  of  contention  between  the  various 
candidates  and  the  Council  was  removed  by  Sebastian's  pledge  either  to 
instruct  the  pupils  in  Latin  or  to  remunerate  another  teacher  undertaking 
the  work  in  his  stead.  When  all  difficulties  were  thus  overcome,  the 
formal  election  took  place  on  April  22,  1723.  The  minutes  of  the  meeting 
are  significant.  Burgomaster  Dr.  Lange,  who  had  conducted  the  negotia- 
tions, did  his  best  to  make  the  appointment  palatable,  mentioning  Bach's 
excellence  on  the  clavier,  and  even  venturing  to  declare  that  'If  Bach 
were  chosen,  Telemann,  in  view  of  his  conduct,  might  be  forgotten.' 
The  other  Councillors  followed  his  lead,  but  they  stressed,  as  the  main 
point  in  the  candidate's  favour,  his  willingness  to  teach  Latin  and  to  study 
the  Latin  catechism  with  the  pupils.  It  was  characteristic  that  although  the 
city  fathers  had  naturally  all  attended  Bach's  trial  performances,  only  one 
referred  to  him  as  a  composer,  and  this  with  the  sole  object  of  empha- 
sizing that  his  church  music  (the  dramatic  expressiveness  of  which  the 
St.  John  Passion  had  clearly  demonstrated)  should  not  be  'too  theatrical,' 
a  stipulation  which  was  promptly  included  in  the  contract. 

Bach,  determined  now  to  get  the  position,  signed  whatever  was 
requested  of  him;  he  also  promised  meekly  not  to  leave  town  without  the 
permission  of  the  Burgomaster  (with  the  mental  reservation  that  he  would 
break  such  a  pledge  whenever  necessary).  He  then  passed  the  requisite 
theological  examination,  and  was  declared  fit  for  the  office  of  Thomas 

Before  these  irrevocable  steps  were  taken,  fate  seemed  to  give  Bach  a 
last  chance  of  staying  on  in  idyllic  Cothen.  The  Princess,  whose  lack  of 
love  for  music  Bach  had  so  deplored,  died  on  April  3,  and  the  conductor 
could  have  expected  to  see  the  old  state  of  affairs  revived.  But  his  was  a 
nature  not  easily  turned  off  a  path  once  chosen.  It  had  been  a  long  and 
arduous  struggle  to  make  up  his  mind;  now,  however,  he  was  ready  for  a 
new  adventure,  and  ten  days  after  the  Princess's  death,  on  April  13, 1723, 
the  bereaved  husband  signed  the  letter  of  dismissal  for  his  conductor. 

l68  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

Nevertheless,  their  close  friendship  persisted,  and  in  spite  of  his  many- 
new  duties,  Bach  found  time  to  visit  Cothen  regularly  for  some  fine  music- 
making,  especially  that  in  celebration  of  Leopold's  birthday  on  December 
10.  He  had  the  joy  of  seeing  his  Prince  united  two  years  later  to  a  music- 
loving  wife;  for  her  birthday  he  wrote  the  cantata  Steigt  freudig  in  die 
Luft,  which  he  performed  with  his  Leipzig  singers,  while  Prince  Leopold 
took  over  the  important  bass  solo  in  the  tradition  of  their  former  delightful 
days.  When  the  Prince's  son  was  born  in  1726,  Bach  dedicated  to  the 
infant  his  first  clavier  partita,  and  even  coaxed  his  Muse  into  writing  a 
dedicatory  poem  for  the  baby.  These  pleasant  ties  were  tragically  severed 
by  Leopold's  sudden  death  in  November  1728.  Bach  came  to  Cothen  for 
the  last  time  to  perform  an  imposing  funeral  music  on  the  night  of  March 
23, 1729,  when  the  body  was  interred,  and  another  cantata  on  the  following 
day,  when  the  funeral  sermon  was  preached.1  Under  Leopold's  successor 
the  orchestra  declined  steadily,  until  even  its  last  five  members  were  dis- 
missed. Clearly  Bach  had  done  the  right  thing  when  he  decided  not  to  tie 
his  fate  to  the  little  principality. 

On  June  1, 1723,  the  new  Cantor  was  formally  installed  at  St.  Thomas'. 
Various  addresses  were  given,  music  was  sung  by  the  pupils,  and  the  new 
official  responded  in  a  dignified  speech  promising  to  serve  a  'Noble  and 
Most  Wise  Council'  to  the  best  of  his  abilities.  There  was,  however,  a 
slightly  discordant  note  in  the  ceremonies,  typical  of  the  state  of  affairs  in 
Leipzig.  The  Consistorium  had  requested  the  pastor  of  St.  Thomas'  to 
welcome  the  new  Cantor  in  the  name  of  the  church  authorities.  This  act 
of  courtesy  did  not  please  the  town  officials,  who  considered  the  installa- 
tion of  the  Cantor  their  prerogative  and  claimed  that  never  before  had  a 
church  official  been  designated  for  such  a  ceremony.  A  discussion  ensued 
that  was  subsequently  continued  in  a  lengthy  correspondence.  The  new 
Cantor  may  have  been  somewhat  perplexed  by  this  incident;  however, 
he  could  not  learn  too  quickly  that  henceforth  he  would  have  to  deal 
with  a  host  of  officials,  all  of  whom,  minor  as  well  as  major,  insisted  on  the 
full  recognition  of  their  vested  rights.  To  find  a  path  through  the  maze  of 
prerogatives  and  conventions  determining  the  work  of  the  various  city 
and  church  employees,  and  to  learn  how  to  observe  the  countless  un- 
written rules,  seemed  almost  a  full-time  occupation,  and  there  was  so 
much  else  for  the  new  Cantor  to  do !  He  found  the  school  in  a  shocking 

1  Cf.  Smend,  'Bach  in  Kothen,'  Berlin,  195 1.  The  connection  with  the  Cothen 
court  was  not  severed  even  after  Sebastian's  death.  When  Friedemann's  daughter, 
Friederica  Sophia,  was  christened  on  February  15,  1757,  two  members  of  the  princely 
house  of  Anhalt-Cothen  were  among  the  godparents. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    LEIPZIG    (1723-1750)  169 

state  of  disorganization.  Rector  Johann  Heinrich  Ernesti,  a  weak  and  tired 
man  of  71,  had  for  years  been  unable  to  control  either  pupils  or  teachers, 
and  the  standard  of  the  institute  had  steadily  declined.  The  students 
consisted  of  a  number  of  paying  day  scholars  and  some  fifty-two  founda- 
tion scholars,  mostly  sons  of  poor  parents  who  on  account  of  their  musical 
talent  were  admitted  as  boarders  for  a  nominal  payment.  Many  of  these 
boys  had  not  received  a  good  upbringing  at  home,  and  a  firm  hand  was 
needed  to  keep  them  in  decent  discipline.  This  unfortunately  the  rector 
did  not  possess.  Furthermore,  it  was  almost  impossible  to  obtain  good 
order  in  a  building  that  had  hardly  been  altered  since  its  erection  in  1554, 
and  was  now  completely  outdated  and  overcrowded.  There  was  not  even 
a  separate  bed  available  for  each  boarder,  and  one  classroom  had  to 
accommodate  three  classes  at  the  same  time,  besides  serving  as  a  dining- 
room.  The  pupils'  schedule  was  bound  to  fill  Bach  with  even  greater 
concern.  The  few  capable  musicians  were  sadly  overworked  and  unable 
to  keep  their  voices  in  good  condition.  The  pupils  had  to  accompany 
every  funeral  (except  those  of  the  very  poor)  singing  hymns — rain,  storm, 
or  snow  making  no  difference;  and  who  could  suggest  a  change  in  these 
conditions,  when  the  fee  for  funerals  meant  so  much  to  pupils  and 
teachers?  From  New  Year's  Day  to  the  middle  of  January  all  the  Thomas- 
ians  sang  daily  in  the  streets,  naturally  often  in  bad  weather,  in  order  to 
attract  charitable  contributions ;  and  again  nobody  dared  raise  his  voice 
against  this  lucrative  old  custom.  Fatigued,  poorly  fed,  and  badly  housed, 
these  pupils  easily  succumbed  to  illness,  and  contagious  diseases  spread 
rapidly  in  the  unsanitary,  overcrowded  school  building. 

Between  the  teachers  relations  were  not  too  harmonious.  Indeed  it  was 
a  turbulent  and  rather  frightening  world  for  which  Sebastian  Bach  had 
surrendered  the  idyllic  seclusion  of  the  Cothen  court. 

He  had  to  live  in  the  very  midst  of  it.  His  quarters,  occupying  the  left 
wing  of  the  school  building,1  had  a  separate  entrance;  yet  his  sanctum,  the 
Componierstube,  traditionally  reserved  for  the  Cantor's  creative  work,  was 
separated  from  the  classroom  of  the  sixth  form  by  only  a  plaster  wall. 
How  much  concentration  must  it  have  required  not  to  hear  the  loud 
voices  of  his  young  neighbours !  Yet  even  such  little  privacy  as  this  was 
not  granted  him  continuously.  Every  fourth  week,  for  the  7  full  days,  the 
Cantor  had  to  serve  as  inspector,  maintaining  discipline  from  4  or  5  a.m., 
according  to  the  season,  when  the  boarders  rose,  through  prayers, 

1  It  was  inevitable  that  Sebastian  should  bring  disease  germs  from  the  school  into 
his  own  quarters,  and  this  was  probably  the  main  cause  of  the  death  of  so  many  of 
Anna  Magdalena's  babies. 

170  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

meals,  and  lessons,  up  to  8  p.m.,  when  it  was  his  duty  to  check  all  the  lights 
after  the  boys  had  retired.  These  thirteen  weeks  a  year  (sometimes  even 
more  if  one  of  the  other  high-ranking  teachers  was  not  available)  meant 
work  of  the  most  uncongenial  kind.  They  unsettled  Sebastian's  creative 
activity  and  called  for  a  special  expenditure  of  nervous  energy,  inasmuch 
as  the  maintenance  of  discipline  did  not  come  easily  to  a  man  of  his 
quick  temper.  Fortunately  the  other  extramusical  work  was  negligible. 
As  Bach's  Latin  classes  were  taken  over  by  a  colleague,  for  a  sum  of  50 
thalers  paid  by  the  Cantor,  he  had  only  to  teach  Luther's  Latin  catechism 
once  a  week,  which  could  not  have  been  a  burden  to  one  so  fully  con- 
versant with  and  interested  in  the  Protestant  dogma. 

The  bulk  of  his  duties  were  of  an  artistic  nature  and  were  covered  by 
the  title  'Director  musices,'  which  Bach  always  used  with  his  signature, 
thus  stressing  that  it  was  the  one  he  held  to  be  important.  He  was  respon- 
sible for  the  musical  programme  in  all  the  municipal  churches,  two  of 
which,  St.  Thomas'  and  St.  Nicholas',  had  very  elaborate  music  on  Sun- 
days, especially  during  the  main  service,  which  lasted  for  four  hours.1  The 
main  musical  work  was  the  cantata,  performed  alternately  at  St.  Thomas' 
and  St.  Nicholas'  by  the  best  singers  of  the  school  (the  so-called  'first 
Cantorei)  and  conducted  by  the  Cantor  himself,  while  the  performance  of 
the  preceding  motet  and  the  direction  of  music  in  the  other  three  churches 
was  entrusted  to  senior  students  appointed  as  assistant  conductors.  Of  the 
two  churches,  Bach  preferred  St.  Thomas'.  The  organ  had  recently  been 
repaired,  and  the  building  itself  remodelled,  and  the  church  was  con- 
sidered, according  to  a  chronicler  of  the  time,  'one  of  the  most  elaborate 
and  beautiful  places  of  worship  in  existence  .  . .  adorned  with  an  exquisite 
and  costly  altar.'  The  music  director  was  particularly  pleased  with  the 
very  convenient  wooden  galleries  placed  on  the  left  and  right  of  the  organ. 
While  the  choir  stood  in  front  of  the  instrument,  the  galleries  accommo- 
dated the  instrumentalists  and  were  admirably  suited  for  double  choirs, 
inspiring  Bach  to  use  them,  for  instance,  in  the  St.  Matthew  Passion.  In 

1  Bach  noted  the  order  of  Divine  Service  on  the  tide-page  of  his  Cantata  No.  61.  His 
aide-memoire  reads  as  follows: 

*i.  [Organ]  prelude;  2.  Motet;  3.  Prelude  on  the  Kyrie,  which  is  [afterwards]  performed 
throughout  in  concerted  music;  4.  Intoning  before  the  altar;  5.  Reading  of  the  Episde; 
6.  Singing  of  the  Litany;  7.  Prelude  on  the  chorale  [and  singing  of  it];  8.  Reading  of  the 
Gospel;  9.  Prelude  on  [and  performance  of]  the  main  music  work;  10.  Singing  of  the 
Credo;  11.  The  Sermon;  12.  Singing  of  several  verses  of  a  hymn;  13.  Words  of  Institution 
[of  the  Sacrament];  14.  Prelude  on  [and  performance  of]  the  composition  [2nd  part  of  the 
cantata].  Afterwards  alternate  preluding  and  singing  of  chorales  to  the  end  of  the 
Communion,  and  so  on.' 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    LEIPZIG   (1723-1750)  171 

addition  to  the  large  organ,  there  was  a  small  instrument  placed  high  up 
on  the  altar  wall,  which  seemed  to  Bach  to  symbolize  heavenly  tunes.  He 
liked  to  use  it  for  special  effects,  such  as  the  insertion  of  German  Christmas 
chorales  into  the  Latin  Magnificat  performed  at  Christmas,  or  the  playing 
of  the  cantus  firmus  in  the  first  chorus  of  the  St.  Matthew  Passion.  The 
church  of  St.  Nicholas'  had  no  such  advantages  and  the  choir-loft  was 
smaller.  Bach  therefore  avoided  it  for  more  elaborate  works.  When  his 
St.  John  Passion  had  to  be  produced  there  in  1724,  he  insisted  energeti- 
cally on  some  repairs  being  carried  out  so  as  to  have  more  space  available 
for  his  performers.  On  the  other  hand,  the  organ  at  St.  Nicholas'  was  more 
powerful,  and  Bach  preferred  to  use  it  for  works  in  which  the  organ  is 
treated  as  a  solo.  Either  at  St.  Thomas'  or  at  St.  Nicholas'  a  new  cantata 
adapted  to  the  special  liturgical  requirements  of  the  day  had  to  be  offered 
on  every  Sunday  and  all  the  feast-days  of  the  ecclesiastical  year.  The  only 
exceptions  were  the  last  three  Sundays  of  Advent  and  the  five  Sundays  of 
Lent;  but  these  provided  no  real  rest-period  for  conductor  and  per- 
formers, since  particularly  ambitious  and  extensive  programmes  had  to  be 
prepared  for  Christmas  and  Easter  (two  performances  each  on  December 
24,  25,  26,  as  well  as  on  Good  Friday,  Easter  Sunday  and  Monday).  As 
to  the  works  performed,  the  majority  were  composed  by  the  music 
director  himself.  Bach  threw  himself  into  this  part  of  his  duties  with 
breath-taking  vigour.  Of  cantatas  alone  he  supplied,  according  to 
Forkel's  statement,  five  complete  sets  for  the  entire  ecclesiastical  year, 
295  different  works  in  all.  Even  if  we  grant  that  a  few  of  these  were  older 
compositions  or  rearrangements  of  secular  music,  we  may  still  accept  as  a 
fact  that  Bach  composed  an  average  of  one  cantata  per  month  up  to  1744. 
And  besides  cantatas  he  had  to  provide  Passions  for  Good  Friday,  motets 
for  important  funerals,1  and  festive  compositions  for  the  yearly  inaugura- 
tion of  the  new  City  Council,  as  well  as  for  other  special  events,  such  as 
visits  from  royalty,  etc.  The  first  Christmas  at  Leipzig  gives  a  good  idea 
of  the  creative  fury  that  possessed  Bach.  On  each  of  the  three  feast-days  he 
offered  a  new  cantata,2  while  in  the  vesper  service  his  new  Magnificat  was 
performed;  in  spite  of  this  he  had  another  composition  ready  for  New 
Year's  Day. 

The  other  civic  churches,  using  the  inferior  singers  of  the  school, 

1  For  instance,  shortly  after  his  arrival  in  Leipzig,  he  was  called  on  to  compose  music 
for  the  commemoration  service  held  for  the  wife  of  a  high  official.  It  is  likely  that  the 
motet  Jesu,  meine  Freude  was  written  for  this  occasion. 

2  Schering,  I.e.,  conjectures  that  the  third  cantata  (No.  64)  may  have  been  the  arrange- 
ment of  another  composer's  work,  although  the  final  chorus  is  certainly  by  Bach. 


called  for  little  work  by  the  music  director,  except  in  the  allotment  of  the 
performers  to  the  different  groups,  which  were  continually  fluctuating  in 
numbers  or  competence  owing  to  illnesses  or  other  causes.1 

In  addition  to  the  directorship  in  the  four  civic  churches,  it  was  im- 
portant for  Bach  to  have  charge  of  the  music  at  St.  Paul's  as  well.  This  was 
the  University  church,  which  in  former  times  had  offered  services  only 
on  the  high  feast-days  and  the  quarterly  solemn  orations,  on  which  occa- 
sions the  Thomas  Cantor  had  been  responsible  for  the  music.  But  from 
1710  onwards  the  University,  in  addition  to  this  'Old  Service,5  in- 
augurated a  'New  Service'  for  every  Sunday,  and  Kuhnau  had  had  some 
difficulties  in  securing  the  musical  directorship  of  this,  as  the  University 
wanted  to  be  as  independent  as  possible  of  town  officials.  It  was  only  by 
undertaking  to  do  the  additional  work  without  further  payment  that 
Kuhnau  eventually  achieved  his  aim.  After  his  death,  J.  G.  Gorner,  a 
former  organist  of  St.  Paul's,  filled  the  position  temporarily,  and  he  had 
been  far-sighted  enough  to  refrain  from  asking  for  a  remuneration.  This 
impressed  the  University  officials  so  favourably  that  they  graciously 
acceded  to  his  subsequent  application  and,  a  few  weeks  before  Bach's 
appointment,  they  conferred  on  him  the  Directorship  of  the  'New 
Service,'  while  reserving  the  'Old  Service'  for  the  Thomas  Cantor.  Bach 
was  anything  but  pleased  about  this  turn  of  events.  The  University 
appointment  was  not  only  important  because  of  financial  considerations; 
it  was  also  useful  for  establishing  contacts  with  University  students  per- 
forming at  St.  Paul's,  who  might  be  willing  to  help  the  music  director  on 
other  occasions.  Bach,  convinced  that  the  position  ought  to  be  his  by 
precedent,  valiantly  strove  to  regain  it.  On  his  settlement  in  Leipzig  he 
immediately  started  work  at  St.  Paul's  by  providing  beautiful  music  for 
Whitsunday,  May  10,  which  happened  to  occur  even  before  he  was 
formally  installed  in  his  new  office.  He  continued  in  this  way  through  the 
following  three  years,  offering  his  services  for  as  many  as  eleven  festive 
occasions.  The  University  was  not  displeased  with  this  state  of  affairs,  but 
when  it  came  to  paying,  Bach  was  unable  to  obtain  the  statutory  stipend. 
After  many  discussions  he  was  given  half  of  what  constituted  the  former 
salary  due  to  the  Cantor  from  the  University,  while  the  rest  went  to 
Gorner.  Some  14  thalers  were  withheld,  but  this  seemed  important 
enough  to  Bach  to  justify  direct  appeals  to  the  highest  authority,  Augustus 

1  They  were  the  church  of  St.  Peter  and  the  'New  Church.'  In  the  latter  more 
elaborate  music  was  performed  on  holy  days  and  during  the  Leipzig  Fair.  For  this  the 
church  organist  was  responsible  (on  Bach's  arrival,  G.  B.  Schott,  and  after  1729,  J.  G. 
Gerlach)  and  he  had  the  help  of  University  students  and  professional  musicians. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    LEIPZIG    (1723-I750)  I73 

'the  Strong,'  Elector  of  Saxony.  If  it  appears  rather  surprising  to  us  that 
the  master  should  have  bothered  his  monarch  with  such  petty  details,  we 
must  not  forget  that  the  Cantor's  income  was  made  up  of  small  items, 
careful  attention  to  which  provided  the  difference  between  an  adequate 
and  an  insufficient  sustenance.  Moreover,  it  was  not  in  Bach's  nature  to 
put  up  with  what  he  felt  to  be  unjust.  So  he  dispatched  three  petitions  to 
the  Elector  in  the  last  months  of  1725;  the  third,  a  masterwork  of  logical 
presentation  and  clarity  of  diction,  amounted  to  some  3000  words.  He 
asked  for  the  restitution  of  the  legal  emoluments  and  for  the  directorship 
of  both  the  Old  and  the  New  Service.  The  monarch  acceded  to  the  first 
request,  but  gave  the  University  freedom  to  settle  the  'New  Service'  in 
whatever  way  they  wanted.  Bach  got  the  outstanding  money,  but  as  it  had 
become  apparent  that  the  University  would  not  let  him  have  the  director- 
ship of  both  services,  he  lost  interest  in  St.  Paul's  and  henceforth  had  the 
music  for  the  'Old  Service'  conducted  by  his  prefects.  On  the  other  hand, 
his  energetic  action  had  not  exactly  endeared  him  to  the  academic  authori- 
ties; from  the  outset  they  had  looked  down  on  the  new  Cantor's  lack  of 
academic  training  (a  shocking  state  of  matters  that  had  not  occurred  in 
Leipzig  during  the  past  century!),  and  they  now  did  their  best  to  bypass 
Bach  whenever  a  special  composition  was  required  for  a  festive  occasion, 
thus  depriving  him  of  not  insignificant  fees. 

Their  hostile  attitude  is  best  illustrated  by  an  incident  that  happened 
two  years  later.  In  September  1727  there  occurred  the  death  of  Christiane 
Eberhardine,  wife  of  the  Elector  of  Saxony,  who  was  dearly  beloved  in 
Lutheran  Leipzig  because  she  had  remained  faithful  to  the  Protestant 
religion  when  her  husband  adopted  Catholicism  in  order  to  gain  the 
Polish  throne.  To  express  the  prevailing  emotion,  an  aristocratic  Univer- 
sity student,  Hans  Carl  von  Kirchbach,  volunteered  to  hold  a  commemo- 
rative service  in  the  University  church  at  his  own  expense,  in  which  he 
was  to  deliver  the  funeral  oration.  When  he  was  given  permission  for  this 
act  of  loyalty,  he  commissioned  the  poet,  Johann  Christoph  Gottsched,  to 
write  a  funeral  Ode,  and  Bach  to  compose  it.  He  could  certainly  not  have 
made  a  wiser  choice — although  this  was  by  no  means  the  opinion  of  the 
learned  professors.  Their  colleague,  Gottsched,  a  great  reformer  of  the 
German  language,  was  eminently  suitable,  but  his  Ode,  they  contended, 
should  be  set  to  music  by  Gorner.  When  Kirchbach  refused  this  sugges- 
tion, claiming  that  Bach  had  already  done  the  work,  he  was  informed  that 
the  composer  would  not  be  allowed  to  perform  the  music,  as  this  was 
Gorner' s  duty.  In  high  irritation,  the  young  nobleman  threatened  to  give 
up  the  whole  project,  whereupon  a  compromise  was  reached.  Gorner  was 

174  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

to  receive  a  present  of  12  thalers  from  the  student,  and  Bach  was  to  sign  a 
pledge  that  he  would  never  again  make  an  agreement  concerning  music 
at  St.  Paul's  without  previously  obtaining  the  consent  of  the  University. 
The  first  part  of  this  arrangement  worked  out  satisfactorily:  Gorner 
received  his  money  and  was  content.  But  as  to  the  pledge,  the  University 
official  dispatched  to  Bach's  lodgings  to  obtain  the  signature  of  the  docu- 
ment had  no  success;  the  Cantor  refused  in  no  uncertain  words  to  sign  it. 

There  was  one  brighter  aspect  to  this  unpleasant  episode:  young 
Kirchbach's  insistence  on  Bach's  composition.  While  to  the  erudite 
professors  the  work  of  a  third-rate  musician  like  Gorner  (who,  as  Bach 
once  shouted  in  a  fit  of  fury,  'would  have  done  better  as  a  cobbler'1) 
seemed  in  no  way  inferior  to  that  of  Bach,  the  young  people  fell  under  the 
spell  of  the  great  man  at  St.  Thomas'.  They  were  anxious  to  secure  his  co- 
operation, when  they  prepared  musical  entertainment  for  some  special 
occasion,  and  several  of  Bach's  secular  cantatas  owe  their  existence  to  such 
commissions.2  What  was  even  more  important,  gifted  University  students 
were  attracted  by  his  genius  and  took  part  in  the  church  music  directed  by 
him.  We  know,  for  instance,  from  a  testimonial  Bach  wrote  for  C.  G. 
Wecker,  subsequently  Cantor  at  Schweidnitz,  that  this  student  of  law 
gave  him  'creditable  assistance'  both  as  a  singer  and  instrumentalist. 
Young  J.  G.  Gerlach,  who  had  graduated  from  the  Thomas  School  in 
1723,  was  also  a  valuable  helper,  whom  Bach  rewarded  by  recommending 
him  successfully  for  the  position  of  organist  and  music  director  at  Leipzig's 
'New  Church.'3 

Thanks  to  such  talented  and  enthusiastic  aides,  not  forgetting  Bach's 
own  three  sons,  who  were  gradually  developing  into  first-class  musicians 
in  their  own  right,  the  master  was  able  to  carry  out  one  of  the  most 
ambitious  projects  of  his  whole  career.  On  Good  Friday,  1729,  his  St. 
Matthew  Passion  had  its  first  performance  at  St.  Thomas'.  The  body  of 
executants  must  have  seemed  quite  enormous  compared  to  those  usually 
employed  in  Leipzig's  churches.  The  parts  used  in  a  subsequent  per- 
formance under  Bach's  direction  have  been  preserved,  and  they  show  that 
17  players  were  employed  for  each  orchestra,  12  singers  for  either  of  the 
two  choruses,  and  a  third  group  of  12  vocalists  for  the  chorale  in  the  first 

1  Cf.  C.  L.  Hilgenfeldt,  'J.  S.  Bach's  Leben,  Wirken  und  Werke,'  1850.  Bach  had 
plenty  of  opportunity  of  seeing  Gorner  at  work,  as  the  latter  was  his  subordinate  as 
organist  of  St.  Nicholas',  a  position  which  Gorner  gave  up  in  1729  for  a  similar  one  at 
St.  Thomas.' 

2  Cf.  Friedrich  Smend  in  AfMf,  1942. 

*  Bach  took  Gerlach  as  soloist  to  Weissenfels  in  1729,  to  take  part  in  the  celebration 
of  Duke  Christian's  birthday,  which  certainly  brought  the  young  singer  a  handsome  fee. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    LEIPZIG    (1723-1750)  I75 

number.  In  1729  the  number  of  singers  was  smaller,  as  the  cantus  firmus 
was  not  sung,  but  played  on  the  little  organ  over  the  altar;  nevertheless 
the  groups  of  executants  must  have  seemed  unusually  large  to  the 
Leipzig  congregation.  In  spite  of  its  considerable  length  (well  over  three 
hours),  the  Passion  was  performed  within  the  framework  of  the  tradi- 
tional Good  Friday  services,  for  which  the  following  schedule  was  laid 
down:  (1)  1.15  p.m.  ringing  of  all  bells;  (2)  the  Hymn  Da  Jesu  an  dem 
Kreu^e  stund  sung  by  the  choir;  (3)  Passion  Music,  first  part;  (4)  Versicle, 
Herr  Jesu  Christy  dich  ^u  wis  wend;  (5)  Sermon;  (6)  Passion  Music,  second 
part;  (7)  Motet,  Ecce  quomodo  moritur  (Jacobus  Gallus);  Intonation  of 
Passion  Versicle,  Collection;  Hymn,  Nun  danket  alle  Gott. 

It  is  hard  for  us  to-day  to  estimate  Leipzig's  response  to  the  sublime 
work.  Bearing  in  mind  the  pledge  Bach  had  signed  not  to  write  operatic 
church  music,  it  is  to  be  feared  that  a  good  many  listeners  may  have 
been  confused,  if  not  actually  shocked,  by  the  poignancy  of  this  music.1 

But  whatever  the  response  of  the  congregation  may  have  been,  it  must 
be  reported  that  neither  the  work  itself,  nor  the  tremendous  achievement 
in  presenting  it  in  spite  of  countless  obstacles,  helped  to  impress  Bach's 
superiors  favourably.  Their  attitude  is  clearly  reflected  in  an  incident  that 
happened  in  the  very  same  year.  Every  spring  new  pupils  were  admitted 
to  the  Thomas  school  to  replace  those  graduating.  In  May  1729,  a  few 
weeks  after  the  performance  of  the  St.  Matthew  Passion,  Bach  handed 
the  Council  a  detailed  list  of  the  candidates  he  had  examined,  naming 
those  he  found  suitable  and  unsuitable  respectively,  and  the  Rector 
seconded  his  recommendations.  The  wise  city  fathers,  however,  had  their 
own  opinions :  they  admitted  four  candidates  the  Cantor  had  warned 
against,  one  he  had  not  even  tested,  and  only  five  he  had  recommended. 
Apparently  they  were  more  interested  in  defying  the  Cantor  than  in 
obtaining  good  musicians  for  their  church  music.  Nor  was  this  an  isolated 
episode.  At  a  Council  meeting  a  year  later,  the  shortcomings  of  a  certain 
Magister  Petzoldt,  Bach's  deputy  for  the  Latin  classes,  were  under  dis- 
cussion, and  this  led  to  complaints  about  the  Cantor  himself.  'He  has  not 
conducted  himself  as  he  should,'  criticized  one  of  the  members;  'he  is 
doing  nothing,'  complained  another;  while  a  third  described  him  as  'in- 
corrigible.' Not  a  single  voice  was  raised  in  Bach's  defence;  nobody  even 

1  Bitter,  Terry,  and  David-Mendel  assume  that  the  St.  Matthew  Passion  is  referred 
to  in  Gerber's  story  about  the  elderly  lady  who  on  hearing  the  Passion  threw  up  her  hands 
in  horror,  exclaiming:  'God  help  us.  'Tis  surely  an  Opera-comedy.'  Smend  in  'Bach  in 
Kothen'  gives  the  entire  quotation  from  Christian  (not  Heinrich  Nikolaus)  Gerber's 
'Geschichte  der  Kirchen-Ceremonien  in  Sachsen,'  1732.  The  present  author  agrees  with 
Smend  that  the  passage  read  in  its  entirety  seems  to  point  to  Dresden  rather  than  Leipzig 


mentioned  the  St.  Matthew  Passion  or  the  brilliant  festival  Bach  had 
arranged  in  June  of  that  year  for  the  bicentenary  of  the  Augsburg  Con- 
fession. Finally,  it  was  decided  to  punish  the  Cantor  for  his  many 
deficiencies  by  reducing  his  income.  A  change  in  the  contractual  salary  or 
the  statutory  allotment  of  Accidentien  was  impossible,  but  the  Council 
could,  and  did,  restrict  the  offender's  share  in  unexpected  revenues.1 

The  city  fathers'  feeling  of  animosity  towards  Bach  was  heartily  reci- 
procated by  the  Cantor.  In  August  1730,  Sebastian,  probably  still  un- 
aware of  the  punitive  action  planned  against  him,  submitted  a  memo- 
randum in  which  he  pointed  out  that  the  admittance  of  unsuitable  pupils 
and  the  lack  of  adequate  funds  were  jeopardizing  his  efforts  to  maintain 
the  church  music  at  a  high  level.  The  very  title  of  the  document,  and  the 
condescending  manner  with  which  all  the  details  of  an  organization  well 
known  to  the  officials  were  explained  in  it,  must  have  been  irritating  to 
the  recipients: 

CA  short,  but  indispensable  sketch  of  what  constitutes  a  well- 
appointed  church  music,  with  a  few  impartial  reflections  on 
its  present  state  of  decline 

'For  a  well-appointed  church  music,  vocalists  and  instrumentalists  are 
necessary.  In  this  town  the  vocalists  are  provided  by  the  foundation 
pupils  of  St.  Thomas',  and  these  are  of  four  classes:  trebles,  altos,  tenors, 
and  basses. 

'If  the  choirs  are  to  perform  church  music  properly  .  .  .  the  vocalists 
must  again  be  divided  into  two  classes:  concertists  [for  the  solos]  and 
ripienists  [for  the  chorus].  There  are  usually  four  concertists,  but  some- 
times up  to  eight  if  it  is  desired  to  perform  music  for  two  choirs.  There 
must  be  at  least  eight  ripienists,  two  to  each  part.  .  .  . 

'The  number  of  the  resident  pupils  of  St.  Thomas'  is  fifty-five;  these 
are  divided  into  four  choirs,  for  the  four  churches  in  which  they  partly 
perform  concerted  music,  partly  sing  motets,  and  partly  chorales.  In  three 
of  the  churches,  i.e.  St.  Thomas',  St.  Nicholas',  and  the  New  Church,  all 
the  pupils  must  be  musically  trained  . . .  those  who  can  only  sing  a  chorale 
at  need  go  to  St.  Peter's. 

1  The  following  instance  reveals  their  policy.  After  the  death  of  the  old  Rector  in 
October  1729,  and  until  a  new  official  was  installed,  Bach  had  to  conduct  the  school 
inspection  every  third,  instead  of  every  fourth,  week.  Later,  when  it  came  to  allotting  the 
Rector's  very  considerable  share  of  Accidentien,  the  two  other  teachers  who  had  taken 
over  extra  duties  received  sizable  shares  of  this  money,  while  Bach  was  left  out  and  got 
nothing  at  all. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    LEIPZIG    (1723-1750)  177 

'To  each  choir  there  must  belong,  at  least,  three  trebles,  three  alti, 
three  tenors,  and  as  many  basses,  so  that  if  one  person  is  unable  to  sing 
(which  often  happens,  and  particularly  at  this  time  of  year,  as  can  be 
proved  by  the  prescriptions  of  the  medicus  sent  to  the  dispensary),  a  motet 
can  still  be  sung  with  at  least  two  voices  to  each  part.  {N.B.  How  much 
better  would  it  be,  if  it  were  so  arranged  as  to  have  four  singers  available 
for  each  part,  each  choir  thus  consisting  of  sixteen  persons!).  Con- 
sequently, the  number  of  those  who  must  understand  music  is  thirty-six 

'The  instrumental  music  consists  of  the  following  performers: 

two  or  even 


violino  I 

two  or  three 

violino  II 

two  each 

viola  I,  II,  violoncello 


double  bass 

two  or  three, 

according  to 



one  or  two 






In  all,  eighteen  persons  at  least,  for  the  instruments. 

'N.B.  Since  church  music  is  often  composed  with  flutes  ...  at  least 
two  persons  are  needed  for  them;  altogether,  then,  twenty  instrumentalists. 
The  number  of  players  engaged  [by  the  city]  for  church  music  is  eight, 
viz.  four  town  pipers,  three  professional  violinists,  and  one  apprentice. 
Discretion  forbids  my  speaking  at  all  truthfully  of  their  competence  and 
musical  knowledge;  however,  it  ought  to  be  considered  that  they  are 
partly  emeriti  and  partly  not  in  such  good  practice  as  they  should  be. 
This  is  the  list  of  them  .  .  .  [viz.  2  trumpets,  2  violins,  2  oboes,  and  1 
bassoon].  Thus  the  following  important  instrumentalists  ...  are  lacking: 
two  players  each  of  first  and  second  violin,  viola,  violoncello,  and  flute: 
one  player  of  double  bass. 

'The  deficiency  here  shown  has  hitherto  had  to  be  made  good  partly 
by  the  University  students,  but  chiefly  by  the  Thomas  pupils.  The  [Uni- 
versity] students  used  to  be  very  willing  to  do  this,  in  the  hope  that  in 
time  they  might .  . .  receive  ...  an  honorarium.  But  as  the  small  payments 
which  fell  to  them  have  been  altogether  withdrawn,  the  readiness  of  the 
students  has  likewise  disappeared,  for  who  will  give  his  service  for 
nothing?  In  the  absence  of  more  efficient  performers,  the  second  violin 
has  been  at  most  times,  and  the  viola,  violoncello,  and  double  bass  have 
been  at  all  times  played  by  the  [Thomas]  pupils,  and  it  is  easy  to  judge 
what  has  thus  been  lost  to  the  vocal  choir.  So  far  only  the  Sunday  music 
has  been  mentioned  [which  takes  place  alternately  in  St.  Thomas'  and  St. 


Nicholas'].  But  if  I  come  to  speak  of  the  holy  days,  when  music  must  be 
provided  for  both  the  principal  churches  at  the  same  time,  the  lack  of  the 
necessary  players  is  even  more  serious,  since  then  I  have  to  give  up  .  .  . 
such  pupils  as  can  play  one  instrument  or  another,  and  thus  am  obliged 
to  do  without  their  assistance  [as  singers]  altogether. 

'Furthermore,  I  cannot  omit  mentioning  that  through  the  admissions 
hitherto  granted  to  so  many  boys  unskilled  and  ignorant  of  music,  the 
performances  have  necessarily  .  .  .  fallen  into  decline.  A  boy  who  knows 
nothing  about  music,  who  cannot  even  sing  a  second  . . .  can  never  be  of 
any  use  in  music.  And  even  those  who  bring  with  them  some  elementary 
knowledge,  do  not  become  useful  as  quickly  as  is  desirable. . . .  However, 
no  time  is  allowed  for  their  training  . . .  but  as  soon  as  they  are  admitted, 
they  are  placed  in  the  choirs.  ...  It  is  well  known  that  my  predecessors, 
Schelle  and  Kuhnau,  were  obliged  to  have  recourse  to  the  assistance  of  the 
[University]  students  when  they  desired  to  perform  complete  and  well- 
sounding  music,  which  they  were  so  far  warranted  in  doing  that  several 
vocalists,  a  bass,  a  tenor,  and  an  alto,  as  well  as  instrumentalists  .  .  .  were 
favoured  with  salaries  by  a  Most  Noble  and  Wise  Council,  and  thereby 
were  induced  to  strengthen  the  church  music.  Now,  however,  when  the 
present  state  of  music  has  greatly  changed — the  art  being  much  advanced 
and  the  taste  definitely  altered,  so  that  the  old-fashioned  kind  of  music 
no  longer  sounds  well  in  our  ears — when,  therefore,  performers  ought  to 
be  selected  who  are  able  to  satisfy  the  present  musical  taste  and  undertake 
the  new  kinds  of  music,  and  at  the  same  time  are  qualified  to  give  satis- 
faction to  the  composer  by  their  rendering  of  his  work,  now  the  few 
perquisites  have  been  altogether  withheld  from  the  choir,  though  they 
ought  to  be  increased  rather  than  diminished.  It  is,  anyhow,  astonishing 
that  German  musicians  should  be  expected  to  perform  ex  tempore  any 
kind  of  music,  whether  Italian  or  French,  English,  or  Polish,  like  some  of 
those  virtuosi  who  have  studied  it  long  beforehand,  even  know  it  almost 
by  heart,  and  who  besides  have  such  high  salaries  that  their  pains  and  dili- 
gence are  well  rewarded.  This  is  not  duly  taken  into  consideration,  and 
our  German  musicians  are  left  to  take  care  of  themselves,  so  that  under 
the  necessity  of  working  for  their  bread  many  can  never  think  of  attaining 
proficiency,  much  less  of  distinguishing  themselves.  To  give  one  instance 
of  this  statement,  we  need  only  go  to  Dresden  and  see  how  the  musicians 
there  are  paid  by  his  Majesty;  since  all  care  as  to  maintenance  is  taken  from 
them,  they  are  relieved  of  anxiety,  and  as,  moreover,  each  has  to  play  but 
one  instrument,  it  is  evident  that  something  admirable  and  delightful  can 
be  heard.  The  conclusion  is  easy  to  arrive  at:  that  in  ceasing  to  receive 

).    SEBASTIAN    IN    LEIPZIG    (1723-I750)  179 

the  perquisites  I  am  deprived  of  the  power  of  getting  the  music  into 
a  better  shape. 

'Finally,  I  will  list  the  present  foundation  pupils,  stating  in  each  case 
the  extent  of  his  musical  skill,  and  leave  it  to  further  consideration 
whether  concerted  music  can  be  properly  performed  under  such  condi- 
tions or  whether  a  further  decline  is  to  be  feared  .  .  .  [There  follows  a  list 
of  names  under  the  headings  'those  who  are  efficient,'  'those  needing 
further  training  before  they  can  take  part  in  concerted  music,'  and  'those 
who  are  not  musical  at  all'].  Summa:  17  serviceable,  20  not  yet  serviceable, 
17  useless.  Joh.  Seb.  Bach, 

Director  Musices.' 
Leipzig,  August  23,  1730. 

This  is,  indeed,  a  highly  significant  document.  Not  only  does  it  offer 
valuable  glimpses  into  the  performing  practice  of  the  time;  it  reveals,  too, 
the  inflexible  nature  of  its  author  and  his  lack  of  the  graces  of  diplomacy 
which  would  have  made  life  so  much  easier  for  him.  Bach  was  angry  with 
his  superiors,  and  when  he  penned  his  report  he  did  not  try  to  hide  his 
feelings  under  the  flowery  phrases  of  respect  and  submission  which  the 
exalted  city  officials  deemed  their  rightful  due.  That  he  did  master  all  the 
intricacies  of  polite  letter- writing,  and  could  use  them  if  he  so  wished,  is 
shown  by  other  petitions  to  the  Council.1  This  time,  however,  he  went 
straight  to  the  point  with  a  bluntness  that  could  only  turn  against  him.  It 
was  also  a  tactical  error  to  praise  conditions  at  Dresden  at  the  expense  of 
Leipzig.  Such  a  comparison  was  not  quite  fair,  since  Dresden,  as  the  resi- 
dence of  the  Elector,  naturally  enjoyed  privileges  denied  to  other  towns. 
It  merely  had  the  result  of  increasing  the  animosity  of  his  superiors. 

Anyway,  the  Burgomaster,  to  whom  he  handed  the  report,  was  not  at 
all  impressed  by  it.  He  did  not  even  mention  it  at  the  following  meeting, 
and  merely  remarked  that  the  Cantor  'showed  little  inclination  to  work.' 
No  vote  was  taken  regarding  the  payment  to  University  students,  for 
which  Bach  had  pleaded  so  strongly.  This  must  have  angered  him  all  the 
more  as  he  was  well  aware  that  the  Council  was  not  as  tight-fisted  in 
dealing  with  another  music  director.  Young  Gerlach,  who,  at  Bach's 
recommendation,  had  been  appointed  to  the  New  Church,  was  granted 
in  this  same  year  a  100  per  cent  increase  in  his  salary,  and  allowed  30 
thalers  for  the  purchase  of  new  instruments.  It  really  looked  as  though  the 

1  Cf.  his  letter  dated  September  20,  1728,  in  which  he,  for  once,  requested  the  City's 
help  against  a  member  of  the  Consistory,  who  had  infringed  Bach's  right  to  choose  the 
church  hymns. 

l80  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

Council  were  anxious  to  develop  the  musical  service  in  this  insignificant 
church  at  the  expense  of  venerable  St.  Thomas'  and  St.  Nicholas', 
which  were  under  Bach's  direction. 

All  this  caused  Sebastian  to  investigate  the  possibilities  of  finding 
another  position,  and  on  October  28,  1730,  he  wrote  to  his  old  school- 
mate, Georg  Erdmann,  now  settled  as  Imperial  Russian  'resident' 
(ambassador)  in  Danzig,  asking  him  whether  he  knew  of  any  good 
opening  there.  He  gave  the  following  reasons  for  his  wish  to  leave  Leipzig: 
'Since  I  find  (1)  that  this  appointment  is  by  no  means  as  advantageous  as 
it  was  described  to  me,  (2)  that  many  fees  incidental  to  it  are  now  stopped, 
(3)  that  the  town  is  a  very  expensive  place  to  live  in,  (4)  that  the  authori- 
ties are  very  strange  people,  with  small  love  of  music,  so  that  I  live  under 
almost  constant  vexation,  jealousy  and  persecution,  I  feel  compelled  to 
seek,  with  God's  assistance,  my  fortune  elsewhere.'1 

Reading  this  outburst,  and  bearing  in  mind  the  sublime  masterpieces 
which  Bach,  alleged  to  'have  done  nothing,'  was  pouring  out  over  Leip- 
zig, one  cannot  help  feeling  outraged  by  the  Council's  attitude.  However, 
it  must  not  be  overlooked  that  one  of  the  main  sources  of  Sebastian's  feud 
with  the  authorities  lay  in  the  double  aspect  of  his  position.  He  was 
engaged  as  teacher  (Cantor)  and  music  director.  To  Bach  only  the  music 
directorship  mattered,  while  to  the  Council  the  duties  of  the  Cantor 
seemed  of  paramount  importance.  The  city  fathers  heard  of  lack  of  disci- 
pline at  the  school,  of  outbursts  of  fury  on  the  part  of  the  irascible  Cantor, 
and  of  lengthy  visits  to  various  courts,  for  which  he  did  not  ask  permission, 
and  they  knew  that  his  prefects  often  took  over  the  singing  classes  which 
he  was  supposed  to  hold.  Other  Cantors  before  him  had  taken  similar 
liberties,  but  these  had  known  how  to  ingratiate  themselves  by  submissive 
and  deferential  behaviour,  whereas  this  'incorrigible'  Bach  acted  with 
maddening  presumptuousness.  Altogether,  it  was  one  of  those  human 
relationships  which  defy  a  satisfactory  solution;  for  the  engagement  of  a 
composer  at  the  peak  of  his  creative  productivity  as  school  official  and 
disciplinarian  in  a  badly  organized  institute  is  a  contradiction  in  itself. 
Bach  would  certainly  have  been  better  off  at  the  court  of  an  important 
sovereign,  who  would  have  expected  nothing  from  him  but  musical  com- 
positions. As  no  such  opening  presented  itself,  he  was  forced  to  remain  in 

Fortunately  the  following  years  saw  a  slackening  of  the  tension 

1  We  do  not  know  whether  Erdmann,  in  answer  to  this  appeal,  did  anything  to  find 
a  congenial  position  for  his  old  school-mate.  Any  plans  he  may  have  entertained  for 
bringing  Sebastian  to  Danzig  were  cut  short  by  Erdmann's  death  in  1736. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    LEIPZIG    (1723-1750)  l8l 

between  him  and  his  official  superiors.  Johann  Mathias  Gesner,  a  good 
friend  from  Sebastian's  Weimar  days,  for  whom  the  Thomas  Cantor  had 
only  recently  written  a  cantata,1  became  Rector  of  the  school,  and  with 
tact  and  discretion  he  calmed  the  waves  of  mutual  indignation.  Gesner  is 
recognized  to-day  as  one  of  the  pioneers  in  the  field  of  classical  philology. 
Before  him  German  scholars  had  been  pedantically  investigating  trifles  of 
antiquarian  or  grammatical  interest;  Gesner  grasped  the  very  spirit  of 
antique  culture  and  in  his  lectures  and  commentaries  opened  up  new  vistas 
to  the  German  mind.  This  outstanding  philologist  was  at  the  same  time  a 
born  teacher,  genuinely  interested  in  young  people,  whose  devotion  he 
won  by  the  power  of  his  own  humanity  and  enthusiasm.  Thus  he  was 
perfectly  suited  for  carrying  out  the  long-needed  reforms  at  the  Thomas 
school.  As  soon  as  he  started  on  his  duties,  he  prevailed  on  the  Council 
to  make  definite  plans  for  a  building  programme.  Before  long  two  new 
storeys  were  added  to  the  school,  and  though  this  entailed  a  good  deal 
of  inconvenience — all  the  teachers,  including  Bach,  having  to  find  tem- 
porary quarters  outside  the  school — the  result  was  well  worth  the  trouble. 
The  Rector  also  issued  new  regulations  for  the  school,  in  which  music 
was  allotted  an  important  place.  He  explained  to  the  pupils  that  their 
praising  the  Lord  through  music  linked  them  with  the  heavenly  choirs 
and  that  he  expected  them  to  be  proud  of  this  privilege  and  even  to  sacri- 
fice leisure  hours  for  the  sake  of  good  performances.  More  effectively  than 
by  such  general  advice  and  the  listing  of  fines  to  be  imposed  on  those 
neglecting  their  musical  work,  the  Rector  succeeded  in  improving  the 
pupils'  attitude  by  changing  the  general  atmosphere  in  the  school.  It  was 
a  much  happier  group  that  now  worked  together  at  St.  Thomas',  and 
naturally  in  all  fields  better  results  were  obtained.  As  for  the  Cantor, 
Gesner  endeavoured  to  smooth  out  his  differences  with  the  Council.  At 
the  Rector's  suggestion  Bach  was  freed  from  any  teaching  assignments 
outside  music  and  in  their  place  was  put  in  charge  of  the  daily  visits  to  the 
morning  service,  at  which  8  choristers  alternately  provided  the  music  at 
either  St.  Thomas'  or  St.  Nicholas'.  Gesner  also  induced  the  authorities  to 
let  the  Cantor  henceforth  have  his  full  share  of  all  accruing  moneys.  Bach, 
on  the  other  hand,  could  not  but  enjoy  working  with  this  outstanding 
Rector  who  really  valued  his  musical  work.  This  attitude  of  Gesner's  is 
proved  by  a  delightful  description  he  offered  of  Bach's  art  both  as 
virtuoso  and  conductor,  sufficient  in  itself  to  endear  the  scholar  to  every 
music  historian.  Some  years  after  leaving  Leipzig  he  wrote  a  Latin  com- 

1  It  is  the  Italian  Cantata  No.  209  composed  in  celebration  of  Gesner's  return  to  his 
native  city.  Cf.  Luigi  Ansbacher  in  'Bach  Gedenkschrift,'  1950. 

l82  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

mentary  to  an  edition  of  Quintilian's  Institutio  Oratorio,  and  used  the 
mention  of  a  cithara-player's  versatility  to  plunge  into  this  panegyric: 

'All  these  [outstanding  achievements],  my  Fabius,  you  would  deem 
very  trivial  could  you  but  rise  from  the  dead  and  see  our  Bach  .  .  .  how 
he  with  both  hands  and  using  all  his  fingers,  plays  on  a  clavier  which  seems 
to  consist  of  many  citharas  in  one,  or  runs  over  the  keys  of  the  instrument 
of  instruments,  whose  innumerable  pipes  are  made  to  sound  by  means  of 
bellows;  and  how  he,  going  one  way  with  his  hands,  and  another  way,  at 
the  utmost  speed,  with  his  feet,  conjures  by  his  unaided  skill .  .  .  hosts  of 
harmonious  sounds;  I  say,  could  you  but  see  him,  how  he  achieves  what 
a  number  of  your  cithara  players  and  600  performers  on  reed  instru- 
ments1 could  never  achieve,  not  merely  .  .  .  singing  and  playing  at  the 
same  time  his  own  parts,  but  presiding  over  thirty  or  forty  musicians  all 
at  once,  controlling  this  one  with  a  nod,  another  by  a  stamp  of  the  foot, 
a  third  with  a  warning  finger,  keeping  time  and  tune,  giving  a  high  note 
to  one,  a  low  to  another,  and  notes  in  between  to  some.  This  one  man, 
standing  alone  in  the  midst  of  the  loud  sounds,  having  the  hardest  task  of 
all,  can  discern  at  every  moment  if  anyone  goes  astray,  and  can  keep  all 
the  musicians  in  order,  restore  any  waverer  to  certainty  and  prevent  him 
from  going  wrong.  Rhythm  is  in  his  every  limb,  he  takes  in  all  the  har- 
monies by  his  subtle  ear  and  utters  all  the  different  parts  through  the 
medium  of  his  own  mouth.  Great  admirer  as  I  am  of  antiquity  in  other 
respects,  I  yet  deem  this  Bach  of  mine  to  comprise  in  himself  many 
Orpheuses  and  twenty  Arions.' 

Such  genuine  admiration  from  a  man  of  Gesner's  intellectual  stature 
must  have  warmed  Bach's  heart.  Their  intercourse  may  also  have  stimu- 
lated the  master  in  other  ways.  In  173 1  appeared  Gesner's  outstanding 
Chrestomathia  Graeca,  and  we  can  well  imagine  Bach  discussing  certain 
pieces  with  his  learned  friend  and  receiving  much  food  for  thought  from 
the  Rector's  vision  of  antique  glory.  Gesner,  incidentally,  was  not  the  only 
one  in  Leipzig  who  was  responsible  for  new  trends  in  the  conception  of 
the  past.  There  was,  for  instance,  Johann  Friedrich  Christ,  Professor  at 
the  University,  who  opened  the  students'  eyes  to  the  all  but  forgotten 
beauties  of  antique  sculpture  and  paintings.  Bach  may  have  heard  about 
these  lectures  from  his  young  University  friends,  and  on  his  frequent  visits 
to  Dresden  he  had  a  chance  to  test  the  truth  of  Professor  Christ's  asser- 

1  The  Latin  expression  Gesner  uses  is  tibia,  a  Roman  instrument  somewhat  in  the 
character  of  an  oboe. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    LEIPZIG    (1723-I750)  183 

tions  by  visiting  the  exquisite  collections  of  antiques,  which  since  1728 
were  being  assembled  there. 

By  a  fortunate  coincidence  the  years  of  pleasant  co-operation  with 
Gesner  also  brought  other  improvements  in  Bach's  position.  He  now  had 
some  excellent  vocalists  in  his  chorus,  among  them  his  favourite  pupil, 
Johann  Ludwig  Krebs,1  his  first  sopranist,  Christoph  Nichelmann,  the 
gifted  Christian  Friedrich  Schemelli,  and  several  others.  Moreover  he  was 
able  to  consolidate  his  connection  with  the  University  students  by  taking 
over,  on  the  departure  of  G.  B.  Schott  in  1729,  a  Collegium  Musicum, 
founded  in  1702  by  Telemann  for  regular  weekly  performances  of  music 
in  Zimmermann's  Coffee-house.  Leipzig  had  two  associations  of  this  kind, 
each  numbering  fifteen  to  twenty  members,  and  as  they  were  independent 
of  the  University  authorities,  there  was  nobody  to  prevent  Bach  from 
assuming  the  directorship.  These  Collegia  Musica  served  a  dual  purpose: 
they  kept  musicians  among  the  students  in  good  training,  and  they  helped 
them  to  obtain  recognition  and  eventually  a  position.  Visitors  from  out- 
side, especially  during  the  Leipzig  fair,  thronged  the  two  Coffee-houses 
to  hear  the  young  musicians  display  their  virtuosity,  and  valuable  contacts 
were  established  in  this  way.  The  direct  financial  returns  for  the  players 
must  have  been  insignificant,  if  we  are  to  believe  the  remarks  of  the  poetess 
Marianne  von  Ziegler:2  'Most  of  the  listeners  seem  to  think  that  these 
sons  of  the  Muses  just  extemporize  the  music;  the  reward  they  get  is  very 
poor  indeed,  and  often  they  have  to  be  content  with  a  bare  bone  to  pick 
for  all  the  hours  of  preparation  they  have  put  in.'  This  may  have  been  true 
for  the  students,  but  certainly  not  for  Bach,  who  would  not  have  directed 
the  group  for  over  ten  years  without  receiving  adequate  financial  com- 
pensation. Zimmermann,  the  owner  of  the  establishment,  would  have  paid 
him  a  considerable  honorarium,  which  the  astute  business-man  amply 
recovered  by  the  afflux  of  guests,  who  consumed  great  quantities  of  his 
coffee,  cake,  or  beer,  while  enjoying  such  artistic  treats.  In  the  summer  the 
Collegium  performed  in  Zimmermann's  open-air  restaurant  outside  the 
city,  where  works  for  a  larger  group,  such  as  Bach's  cantata  'Phoebus 
and  Pan,'  could  be  played.  The  work  with  the  Collegium  Musicum  in- 
spired Bach  to  compose  a  number  of  delightful  secular  cantatas,  but  he 
did  not  by  any  means  limit  himself  to  the  performance  of  vocal  music. 
The  Brandenburg  Concertos,  many  other  chamber  music  works,  and  new 
compositions  for  keyboard  instruments  resounded  at  Zimmermann's 

1  He  was  a  son  of  Johann  Tobias  Krebs,  Bach's  student  in  Weimar.  The  older  Krebs 
admired  Bach  so  greatly  that  altogether  he  sent  three  of  his  offspring  to  St.  Thomas.' 

2  This  outstanding  woman  supplied  9  texts  for  Bach's  Cantatas. 

184  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

together  with  compositions  by  other  masters.  And  if  Bach  was  in  a  good 
humour,  he  could  be  induced  to  improvise  on  the  clavier,  to  the  delight 
of  the  assembled  guests. 

Many  performances  of  the  Collegium  Musicum  took  place  as  an  act  of 
homage  to  the  ruling  monarch.  In  particular,  the  year  1733,  when  the 
Elector  Augustus  III  succeeded  his  father,  was  distinguished  by  a  series 
of  such  festive  acts.  Bach  exerted  himself  by  producing  no  less  than  four 
different  cantatas  during  the  period  from  August  to  December  of  that 
year  in  order  to  celebrate  the  name-day  and  birthday  respectively  of  the 
new  ruler  as  well  as  the  birthdays  of  the  Crown  Prince  and  the  Electress; 
and  he  continued  with  hardly  diminished  efforts  in  1734.  Yet  all  these 
contributions  sink  into  insignificance  when  compared  to  the  one  monu- 
mental work  he  wrote  for  Augustus  III.  The  new  ruler's  first  visit  to 
Leipzig,  to  accept  the  oath  of  allegiance,  was  celebrated  with  great  pomp, 
and  the  City  Council  commissioned  their  Director  Musices  to  write  a 
Kyrie  and  Gloria  to  be  performed  on  April  21, 1733,  at  St.  Nicholas'  before 
and  after  the  festive  sermon.1  Bach,  knowing  that  on  this  special  occasion 
much  of  the  usual  liturgy  in  the  service  would  be  omitted  and  that,  on  the 
other  <i  hand,  he  would  have  more  singers  than  usual  at  his  disposal, 
supplied  a  Kyrie  and  Gloria  surpassing  the  customary  sacred  music  in 
every  respect.  The  Kyrie  was  meant  as  mourning  music  for  the  deceased 
Elector,  Augustus  'the  Strong,'  while  the  triumphant  strains  of  the  Gloria 
following  the  sermon  celebrated  the  ascension  to  the  throne  of  his  heir. 
The  Elector,  as  a  Catholic,  was,  significantly  enough,  deprived  of  the  joy 
of  hearing  this  glorious  music  performed  in  his  honour.  However,  Bach 
seems  to  have  been  encouraged  by  friends  in  Dresden  to  hope  that  a  whole 
Mass  of  his  composition  might  be  played  for  the  Coronation  ceremony  of 
Augustus  III  as  King  of  Poland.2  Thus  he  set  about  completing  the 
gigantic  composition,  for  which  task  he  had  ample  leisure,  as  the  mourn- 
ing period  for  the  deceased  Elector  made  the  performance  of  'figural' 
music  in  the  Leipzig  churches  impossible.  The  Mass  in  b  was  handed  to 
the  Elector,  but  the  composer's  hope  was  not  fulfilled.  This  meant  a  dis- 
appointment for  Bach,  but  it  may,  on  the  other  hand,  have  saved  him  a 
good  deal  of  unpleasantness.  For  although  at  that  time  individual  move- 
ments from  the  Mass,  especially  the  Latin  Kyrie  and  Gloria,  still  figured  in 
the  Protestant  ritual,  the  composition  of  the  complete  Ordinary  of  the 

1  Cf.  Schering,  I.e.,  p.  217  and  foil.  Smend  in  'J-  S.  Bachs  Kirchenkantaten,'  VI, 
assumes  that  the  Credo  from  the  Mass  in  b  was  performed  as  early  as  June  5,  1732,  for  the 
inauguration  of  the  remodelled  Thomas  school. 

2  Cf.  Schering  in  BJ,  1936. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    LEIPZIG    (1723-I750)  185 

Mass  was  tantamount  to  an  invasion  of  Catholic  territory.  Bach  himself 
apparently  felt  no  scruples  in  this  respect.  His  employers  in  Leipzig,  how- 
ever, might  have  resented  seeing  their  music  director  connected  in  so 
conspicuous  a  manner  with  the  Coronation  service  in  a  Catholic  church. 
Bach  had  good  reasons  for  making  continual  efforts  to  prove  his 
loyalty  to  the  new  ruler.  He  felt  increasingly  in  need  of  the  Elector's 
support  as  the  situation  in  Leipzig  was  changing  again.  Rector  Gesner  had 
always  cherished  the  wish  to  lecture  at  a  University  too,  and  as  this 
apparently  proved  impossible  in  Leipzig,  he  accepted  a  call  to  the  newly 
founded  University  of  Gottingen,  where  he  was  to  serve  with  the  greatest 
distinction.  He  was  succeeded  in  November  1734  by  the  former  vice- 
principal  of  the  school,  Johann  August  Ernesti,  a  man  only  27  years  of 
age,  who  deservedly  enjoyed  a  fine  reputation  as  a  classical  scholar.  In 
some  respects  he  continued  his  predecessor's  policy  by  raising  the 
scholastic  standard;  but  in  his  ambition  to  create  an  outstanding  institute 
of  learning,  the  young  Rector  saw  in  the  students'  musical  duties  nothing 
but  an  obstacle  to  the  fulfilment  of  his  plans.  His  attitude  was  not  wholly 
unjustified.  The  type  of  school  capable  of  serving  both  scholastic  and 
musical  purposes  had  become  definitely  outdated.  The  range  of  subjects 
to  be  studied  was  greatly  widened  in  the  18th  century,  and  with  natural 
science  playing  an  increasingly  important  part,  it  gradually  became  im- 
possible for  the  young  people  to  cope  with  both  their  scholastic  and  musi- 
cal tasks.  The  Rector  wanted  to  modernize  his  institute  and  hated  to  see 
his  charges  waste  so  much  time  by  singing  in  the  streets,  attending  funerals 
or  weddings,  and  rehearsing  for  performances.  His  problem  was  further 
aggravated  by  the  kind  of  music  the  Cantor  expected  the  choir  to  sing;  it 
often  necessitated  serious  studying  and  additional  rehearsals.  All  this  dis- 
pleased the  Rector  exceedingly.  He  did  not,  like  Gesner,  compare  the 
Thomasians  to  the  angelic  choirs.  Instead,  when  he  came  across  a  boy 
practising  his  music,  he  would  remark  sneeringly:  'So  it's  a  pothouse 
fiddler  you  want  to  become,'  and  thus  make  the  performance  of  music 
seem  an  inferior  kind  of  occupation.  To  work  in  harmony  with  so  intoler- 
ant and  ambitious  a  superior  would  have  been  hard  for  any  musician;  it 
was  utterly  impossible  for  Bach.  Thus  there  was  tension,  more  and  more 
of  it,  until  it  burst  out  in  a  controversy  which  assumed  terrific  propor- 
tions and  lasted  through  more  than  two  years  (during  which  time  the  two 
deadly  enemies  had  to  live  next  door  to  each  other!).  The  incident  pro- 
voking it  was  petty,  and  the  details  need  not  concern  us  to-day.  It  had 
to  do  with  the  appointment  of  musical  prefects,  those  senior  pupils  who 
took  over  much  of  the  Cantor's  duties  and  whose  satisfactory  work  was 

186  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

of  vital  importance  to  a  smoothly  running  musical  organization.  Bach's 
top  prefect  provoked  the  Rector  by  punishing  a  recalcitrant  young  pupil 
too  severely,  whereupon  Ernesti,  against  Bach's  wish,  forced  him  to 
leave  the  school.  The  Rector  then  promoted  another  prefect  to  the  first 
place,  a  youth  whom  the  Cantor  declared  unfit  for  so  responsible  a  posi- 
tion. Clearly  the  right  was  on  Bach's  side,  as  no  one  but  he  was  supposed 
to  judge  a  pupil's  qualifications  for  the  musical  prefectship.  Unfortunately, 
however,  the  hot-blooded  Cantor  damaged  his  own  unassailable  position 
by  letting  his  temper  run  away  with  him.  Shocking  scenes  occurred 
during  the  church  services  when  Bach,  seeing  the  hated  prefect  at  work, 
chased  him  away  with  'great  shouting  and  noise,'  whereupon  Ernesti  sent 
the  youth  back,  threatening  the  whole  choir  with  penalties  if  they  sang 
under  anybody  else.  Thus  utter  confusion  reigned  at  St.  Thomas',  and  the 
discipline  built  up  with  so  much  difficulty  was  carried  off  as  in  a  whirl- 
wind. Bach,  however,  did  not  care  for  anything  but  the  restitution  of  his 
rights,  'cost  it  what  it  might.'  A  stream  of  reports  and  appeals  began  to 
flow  from  both  adversaries  to  the  authorities.  Bach's  were  a  model  of 
clearness  dealing  merely  with  the  problem  in  question.  Ernesti,  on  the 
other  hand,  not  only  blamed  the  Cantor  for  shirking  his  duties  in  various 
ways,  but  even  contended  that  Bach  was  venal  and  accepted  unsuitable 
candidates  whose  fathers  were  willing  to  make  him  a  payment.  Such  a 
remark  about  Sebastian  Bach,  whose  unshakable  fairness  and  justice  in 
the  examination  of  organs  had  become  a  byword  over  all  the  country, 
shows  best  with  what  type  of  superior  the  Cantor  had  to  deal.  The  Council 
and  the  Consistory,  both  of  whom  had  received  various  appeals,  found 
themselves  in  a  most  unpleasant  situation — they  did  not  care  to  offend 
Ernesti,  of  whom  they  thought  highly,  but  on  the  other  hand  they  could 
not  help  admitting  the  justice  of  the  Cantor's  complaints.  Therefore  they 
chose  the  old  expedient  of  doing  nothing,  hoping  that  with  the  gradua- 
tion of  the  offensive  prefect  the  storm  would  pass  over.  Ultimately  Bach 
appealed  to  the  highest  authority,  the  Elector,  who  in  1736  had  conferred 
on  him  the  title  of  Royal  Polish  and  Electoral  Saxon  Court  composer1 
in  gratitude  for  Bach's  many  musical  homages,  not  forgetting  the  B  minor 
Mass.  It  seems  that  the  monarch,  on  a  visit  to  Leipzig  at  which  festive 
music  by  Bach  was  performed  with  the  greatest  pomp,  personally  inter- 

1  The  title,  which  Bach  had  already  solicited  in  1733  when  handing  in  the  first  2 
movements  of  the  Mass  in  b,  was  only  conferred  on  him  on  November  19,  1736,  after  he 
had  lost  the  minor  title  of  conductor  to  the  court  of  Weissenfels  through  the  death  of 
Duke  Christian.  Apparently  Augustus  III  had  waited  so  long  because  he  did  not  care  to 
be  associated  with  a  lower  ranking  ruler  in  the  titles  he  awarded. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    LEIPZIG    (1723-1750)  187 

vened  in  favour  of  the  composer,  for  thenceforth  the  feud  at  St.  Thomas' 
is  not  mentioned  in  any  official  document.  This  does  not  mean,  however, 
that  either  of  the  two  parties  forgot  or  forgave.  Ernesti  persevered  in  his 
anti-musical  policy,  and  Bach  grew  less  and  less  concerned  with  the 
duties  of  his  office.  Not  only  did  he  neglect  his  teaching  assignments,  but 
he  did  so  to  such  an  extent  that  in  1740  it  became  necessary  to  appoint  a 
master  for  musical  theory  to  the  school.  Even  the  stream  of  new  com- 
positions for  his  choir  diminished  considerably  at  that  time,  and  old  works 
were  performed  in  their  stead.  Bach  was  still  deeply  interested  in  the 
training  of  gifted  musicians,  but,  significantly  enough,  such  outstanding 
pupils  as  J.  F.  Agricola,  J.  F.  Doles,  J.  P.  Kirnberger,  and  J.  C.  Altnikol 
came  to  him  as  University  students.  Of  talented  pupils  of  the  Thomas 
school  practically  nothing  is  known  during  these  years:  either  there  were 
none  in  the  Alumnate,  or  Bach,  knowing  Ernesti's  attitude,  was  not 
disposed  to  spend  much  of  his  time  and  energy  on  them. 

However,  neglecting  St.  Thomas'  did  not  mean  a  life  of  leisure  for 
him;  he  continued  to  be  an  indefatigable  worker,  but  one  whose  energies 
were  directed  towards  different  goals.  As  a  composer  he  became  less 
concerned  with  sacred  music,  perhaps  because  the  spiritual  climate  of 
Leipzig  was  changing  under  the  growing  impact  of  'Enlightenment.5  Now 
he  concentrated  on  instrumental  composition;  and  he  also  paid  more 
attention  to  the  problems  of  publishing  his  music.  His  zest  for  travelling 
and  meeting  fellow  musicians  found  satisfaction  through  frequent  and 
well-paid  invitations  to  test  organs  in  various  cities.  He  also  spent  a  good 
deal  of  time  at  Dresden,  appearing  at  court,  giving  organ  recitals,  and 
making  music  with  the  prominent  court  musicians,  who  also  came  to 
Leipzig  to  play  at  his  home.1 

A  unique  experience  was  granted  him  in  a  meeting  with  King 
Friedrich  'the  Great'  of  Prussia.  Since  his  second  son,  Emanuel,  had  been 
appointed  in  1740  court  accompanist  to  the  enlightened  and  highly 
musical  ruler,  Bach  was  greatly  interested  in  the  Northern  capital.  It  is 
probably  his  own  opinion  that  is  reflected  in  the  remark  of  his  secretary, 
J.  Elias  Bach,2  that  'at  Berlin  the  golden  age  of  music  seemed  to  be  in- 
augurated.' Sebastian  may  even  have  entertained  hopes  of  finding  in 
Berlin  the  kind  of  position  he  was  longing  for.  It  is  noteworthy,  anyway, 
that  as  early  as  174 1  he  visited  his  son  there.  The  time  was  not  well  chosen, 
for  the  King  was  involved  in  the  first  'Silesian  war'  against  Austria;  besides, 

1  Cf.  letter  of  Elias  Bach  to  Cantor  Koch,  dated  August  11,  1739,  in  'Die  Musik,' 

2  Cf.  letter  of  Elias  to  J.  Ernst  Bach,  dated  January  9,  1742,  I.e. 

l88  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

Sebastian's  sojourn  had  to  be  broken  off  because  of  a  serious  illness 
of  Anna  Magdalena;  as  a  result,  no  appearance  at  court  took  place.  The 
following  years  saw  the  monarch  still  mainly  engaged  in  martial  exploits, 
which  even  interfered  with  Bach's  own  life.  In  1745  the  Prussian  armies 
laid  siege  to  Leipzig,  ruthlessly  burning  and  ransacking  the  lovely 
countryside  around  it;  and  great  was  the  distress  of  the  Leipzig  popula- 
tion. To  raise  their  morale,  Bach  wrote,  to  the  accompaniment  of  rumbling 
cannons,  his  powerful  cantata  Du  Friedefurst,  in  which  some  inaccuracies 
in  the  continuo  part  and  a  score  difficult  to  read  in  some  places1  testify 
to  the  peculiar  conditions  prevailing  at  the  time  of  its  composition.  But 
Sebastian,  a  true  son  of  the  period,  was  not  really  concerned  with  the 
quarrels  of  the  rulers,  and  once  the  danger  was  over  and  peace  restored, 
he  again  planned  an  appearance  at  the  Prussian  court.  This  time  conditions 
were  much  more  propitious,  since  a  distinguished  friend  of  the  Bachs  had 
come  to  Berlin  in  1746  as  Russian  ambassador.  This  was  the  Reichsgraf 
Hermann  von  Keyserlingk,2  who  had  been  stationed  in  Dresden  from  1733 
to  1746,  and  had  received  from  Sebastian  the  'Goldberg  Variations'  for 
which  he  sent  the  composer  a  golden  goblet  filled  with  a  hundred  Louis 
d'or.  The  ambassador's  enthusiastic  praise  of  the  Leipzig  master  naturally 
excited  the  Prussian  king's  curiosity,  and  so  an  invitation  was  extended 
through  Emanuel.  In  the  spring  of  1747  Sebastian  complied  and  came  to 
Berlin,  where  he  also  had  the  joy  of  seeing  his  first  grandson,  Johann 
August,3  born  on  November  30,  1745.  'Old  Bach,'  as  the  King  spoke  of 
him,  was  received  most  graciously.  He  had  to  try  out  all  the  fine  forte- 
pianos  built  by  Silbermann  that  were  in  the  palace,  and  on  each  he  dis- 
played his  incredible  mastery  of  improvisation.  Finally  he  asked  the  King, 
who  was  a  composer  himself,  to  give  him  a  subject  of  his  own  for  a  fugue. 
This  Friedrich  did,  and  Bach  was  so  intrigued  by  the  possibilities  of  the 
royal  theme  that  on  his  return  to  Leipzig  he  wrote  a  truly  royal  set  of 
polyphonic  compositions  in  the  strictest  style  based  on  this  subject;  he 
had  them  engraved  under  the  title  Das  musikalische  Opfer  (Musical 
Offering)  and  dedicated  them  to  the  King.  Having  intercourse  with,  and 

1  Cf.  preface  to  BG  24,  pp.  26  and  foil. 

2  Keyserlingk  was  also  mainly  responsible  for  the  awarding  to  Sebastian  of  the  title 
of  Saxon  court  composer.  In  1748  he  was  godfather  to  Emanuel's  youngest  son,  Johann 
Sebastian.  Friedemann  dedicated  a  Sonata  in  E  fiat  major  to  him  in  1763. 

3  It  is  likely  that  the  'Capellmeister  Bach'  mentioned  as  one  of  the  child's  god- 
fathers was  Sebastian,  but  this  does  not  necessarily  imply  that  he  attended  the  christening 
ceremony.  Perhaps  he  was  represented  by  someone  else.  The  same  applies  to  Anna 
Magdalena  Bach,  who  is  mentioned  as  godmother  of  Emanuel's  second  child,  Anna  Carolina 
Philippina,  christened  on  September  12,  1747.  Cf.  Miesner  in  BJ,  1932. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    IN    LEIPZIG    (1723-1750)  189 

being  so  warmly  applauded  by,  the  great  monarch  gave  intense  satis- 
faction to  Sebastian,  and  in  this  particular  case  he  may  not  even  have 
minded  that  no  financial  benefits  were  derived  from  the  visit  or  the 
subsequent  dedication.  (Friedrich's  account  books,  at  least,  make  no 
mention  of  any  payment  to  the  guest  from  Leipzig.) 

The  Berlin  visit  was  the  last  great  artistic  success  granted  to  Bach. 
Not  long  afterwards  an  old  affliction  of  his  began  to  assume  threatening 
proportions.  His  eyesight  had  been  poor  for  many  years,  and  the  constant 
strain  of  writing  small  music  notes  by  candlelight  finally  exacted  its  toll — 
as  it  did  with  his  kinsmen,  Johann  Gottfried  Walther  and  Johann  Ernst 
Bach  (25).  In  1749  Bach  was  nearly  blind,  and  rumour  had  it  that  his 
health  was  badly  impaired  as  well.  Whether  this  was  correct,  whether  he 
had  had  a  stroke,  as  some  historians  conjecture,  can  no  longer  be  verified; 
the  Necrolog  written  by  his  own  son,  Emanuel,  and  his  pupil,  Agricola, 
certainly  stressed  that,  apart  from  his  eye-trouble,  Bach  had  been  physi- 
cally quite  fit.  But,  whatever  was  the  truth  behind  the  rumours,  they 
caused  the  writing  of  a  letter  to  Leipzig's  Burgomaster,  in  which  the 
Dresden  conductor,  Johann  Gottlob  Harrer,  was  recommended  for  the 
vacancy  expected  to  occur  through  Bach's  death;  and  it  was  suggested 
that  Harrer  should  prove  his  skill  by  giving  a  trial  performance  im- 
mediately. As  the  author  of  the  letter  was  the  all-powerful  Saxonian 
minister,  Count  Bruhl,  his  suggestion  amounted  to  an  order.  The  good 
city  fathers  complied — whether  or  not  with  a  feeling  of  guilt  at  this 
flagrant  lack  of  reverence  we  don't  know — and  so  it  came  about  that 
in  the  inn  of  the  'Three  Swans,'  where  secular  concerts  used  to  take  place, 
Harrer  on  June  8,  1749,  gave  a  public  performance  of  a  church  cantata 
he  had  brought  with  him,  as  a  test  piece  for  the  'future  position  of 
Thomas  Cantor,  if  the  director  musices,  Sebastian  Bach,  should  pass  away.' 
Thus  a  chronicler1  records  nonchalantly.  Bach  could  not  help  hearing  of 
the  shameful  incident.  His  fighting  spirit  was  roused;  he  would  prove  to 
them  that  he  was  still  in  the  possession  of  his  strength.  Tenaciously  he 
continued  the  struggle  for  more  than  a  year,  and  Harrer,  dismayed  and 
disappointed,  had  to  go  back  to  Dresden.  At  that  time  news  of  a  visiting 
English  oculist,  who  had  performed  amazing  operations,  spread  through 
Germany.  This  Chevalier  John  Taylor  happened  to  pass  through  Leipzig, 
and  Bach  resolved  to  entrust  himself  to  the  renowned  surgeon.  Taylor 
performed  two  operations  on  him,  but  they  were  both  failures;  moreover 
the  various  drugs  administered  shattered  the  master's  whole  system  and 
he  grew  steadily  weaker.  On  July  18,  sight  was  suddenly  restored  to  him, 

1  Johann  Salomon  Riemer,  'Chronik  Leipzigs,'  1714-71,  Ratsarchiv,  Leipzig. 


but  a  few  hours  later  a  stroke  occurred  followed  by  a  raging  fever,  to 
which  he  succumbed  on  July  28,  1750.  Musicians  and  music  lovers  in 
Leipzig  deeply  mourned  the  loss.  The  City  Council,  however,  in  its  next 
meeting,  did  not  waste  much  time  in  eulogies  on  the  departed  composer. 
Some  remarks  were  uttered  such  as  'the  school  needs  a  Cantor,  not  a 
conductor,'  or  'Bach  was  certainly  a  great  musician,  but  no  school 
teacher/  and  Harrer's  appointment  was  formally  decided  on.  Further- 
more, when  Bach's  widow  applied  for  the  customary  payment  of  the 
Cantor's  honorarium  through  the  following  half-year,  the  city  accountant 
was  smart  enough  to  remember  that  Bach,  when  entering  office  27  years 
previously,  had  received  full  payment  for  the  first  quarter,  although  he 
started  work  only  in  February;  so  the  Council  had  the  satisfaction  of 
deducting  21  th.  21  gr.  from  the  relief-sum  due  to  the  widow.  The 
intractable  Cantor  was  replaced  by  a  man  whose  'very  quiet  and  accommo- 
dating nature'  Count  Briihl  had  emphasized,  and  the  Council  looked 
forward  to  a  peaceful  era  at  St.  Thomas'. 



Our  conception  of  Sebastian's  appearance  during  his  service  at  Leipzig 
was,  until  recently,  based  mainly  on  the  portrait  painted  towards  the  end 
of  his  life  by  Elias  Gottlieb  Haussmann.1  It  shows  a  man  of  tremendous 
power  and  stubborn  energy,  whose  face  reveals  the  suffering,  the  dis- 
appointments, and  the  bitter  fights  which  formed  so  decisive  a  part  of  his 
life  as  Thomas  Cantor.  This  is  the  Bach  with  whom  the  Leipzig  authorities 
had  to  deal;  clearly  a  formidable  man  who  made  the  good  burghers  feel 
uncomfortable  and  only  too  often  definitely  hostile.  There  is,  however, 
another  portrait  of  the  master  of  the  Leipzig  years  (Frontispiece).  For  more 
than  200  years  it  had  been  hidden  in  private  collections  and  was  only  made 

1  It  was  painted  for  the  Societdt  der  musikalischen  Wissenschaften,  an  association  of 
learned  musicians  founded  by  Lorenz  Christoph  Mizler,  of  which  Bach  became  a  member 
in  1747.  Haussmann  seems  to  have  made  several  copies  of  it.  That  of  1747  is  reproduced 
in  C.  S.  Terry's  'Bach,'  London,  1928.  There  is  also  a  Haussmann  portrait  of  1748,  in  a 
much  better  state  of  preservation,  which  is  owned  by  an  English  collector  and  was 
published  in  1950  (cf.  Hans  Raupach,  'Das  wahre  Bildnis  J.  S.  Bachs').  The  authenticity 
of  a  Bach  portrait  claimed  to  have  been  painted  by  Haussmann  in  1723  and  preserved  in 
an  American  collection  (cf.  Herz  in  MQ,  1943)  is  doubtful,  and  so  are  the  paintings  by 
Ihle,  as  well  as  the  so-called  Volbach  portrait.  The  Bach  painting  by  Liszewski  was  only 
done  after  the  composer's  death.  The  Haussmann  portrait  of  1748  was  acquired  in  1953 
by  William  H.  Scheide,  Princeton,  N.J.,  U.S.A. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    AND    HIS    FAMILY  191 

available  to  the  present  writer  in  1950.1  It  was  executed  in  pastel  in  the 
1730's  during  a  visit  to  Leipzig  by  a  young  member  of  the  family, 
Gottlieb  Friedrich,  eldest  son  of  Johann  Ludwig  Bach,  the  Meiningen 
conductor,  with  whom  Sebastian  had  been  in  close  artistic  contact  (cf. 
p.  108).  In  this  beautiful  pastel,  Sebastian's  characteristic  features — the 
lofty  brow,  fleshy  face,  prominent  nose,  stubborn  mouth — are  of  course 
the  same,  but  the  expression  is  a  very  different  one.  It  is  easy  to  find 
physical  reasons  for  Sebastian's  more  relaxed  attitude  in  this  pastel. 
Gottlieb  Friedrich's  sitter  was  a  man  ten  or  twelve  years  younger,  whose 
eyes  did  not  yet  reveal  the  strain  that  a  subsequent  disease  was  to  produce. 
But  the  difference  between  Haussmann's  and  young  Gottlieb's  portraits 
reaches  far  deeper.  The  kinsman  painted  the  master  as  he  saw  him  when 
visiting  Sebastian's  home,  which,  as  Emanuel  later  wrote  to  Forkel,  'was 
like  a  beehive,  and  just  as  teeming  with  life.'  Here,  as  the  centre  of  his 
own  private  world,  Sebastian  was  by  no  means  the  man  whom  the 
Leipzig  Council  resented  and  feared.  He  was  generous,  courteous,  and 
helpful;  he  rejoiced  in  his  children  and  kinsmen,  training  them  in  his  art 
and  assisting  them  in  every  conceivable  way.  The  man  whom  young  Bach 
portrayed  was  not  harassed  by  'jealousy  and  persecution'  (cf.  p.  180). 
There  is  strength  and  determination  combined  with  joy  and  pride  in  his 
face,  pride  in  his  position  as  the  father  and  mentor  of  the  many  gifted 
musicians  who  sat  at  his  feet  and  drew  inspiration  from  his  supreme 
mastery  and  powerful  personality. 

The  picture  we  have  drawn  of  Sebastian  at  Leipzig  would  therefore 
be  incomplete  were  we  not  to  follow  him  into  the  privacy  of  his  home  and 
watch  the  destinies  of  the  younger  generation  take  shape  under  his 

When  Bach  moved  to  Leipzig,  in  1723,  four  children  accompanied 
him  and  his  young  wife.2  The  eldest,  Catharina  Dorothea,  was  15  and 
thus  capable  of  being  a  valuable  help  in  the  household.  The  three  boys, 
Wilhelm  Friedemann,  Philipp  Emanuel,  and  Gottfried  Bernhard,  aged  13, 
9,  and  8  respectively,  were  enrolled  in  the  Thomas  school  and  did  well 
there.  Some  of  Friedemann's  exercise  books  have  been  discovered  and 

1  The  pastel  belongs  to  Mr.  Paul  Bach,  a  great-grandson  of  the  painter.  Cf.  for  the 
following  statements  Karl  Geiringer,  'The  Lost  Bach  Portrait,'  Oxford  University  Press, 
New  York,  1950. 

2  It  is  characteristic  of  Sebastian's  loyalty  to  the  family  that  shordy  after  his  appoint- 
ment he  had  a  nephew  from  Ohrdruf  join  the  school.  This  was  Johann  Heinrich  (born  1707), 
fourth  son  of  Sebastian's  eldest  brother  and  teacher,  Johann  Christoph,  who  had  died  not 
long  before.  This  youth  stayed  at  the  Thomas  school  for  4  years  receiving  ample  musical 
instruction  from  his  uncle;  he  subsequendy  became  Cantor  in  Oehringen. 


they  reveal  him  as  a  very  bright  boy,  well  versed  in  Latin  and  Greek,  and 
one  who,  on  the  other  hand,  knew  how  to  enliven  boring  lessons  by 
drawing  caricatures  and  scribbling  jokes  into  his  books.  Sebastian,  who 
was  determined  that  his  sons  should  enjoy  the  academic  training  denied 
to  himself,  was  pleased  to  note  their  scholastic  aptitude.  As  a  symbolic 
gesture,  in  the  very  year  of  their  arrival  in  Leipzig,  he  had  Friedemann's 
name  entered  at  the  University  for  ultimate  matriculation,  and  at  Christ- 
mas he  presented  the  boy  with  the  certificate  of  registration.  Hand  in 
hand  with  school  work  went  a  most  thorough  musical  education,  which 
must  have  kept  the  three  Bach  boys  very  busy  indeed.  They  were  naturally 
important  members  of  Sebastian's  choir;  they  studied  organ  and  clavier 
with  him,  and  they  were  gradually  introduced  into  musical  theory  and  the 
science  of  composition.  But  Sebastian  was  still  not  satisfied  as  far  as  his 
beloved  'Friede'  (the  family  name  of  the  eldest  boy)  was  concerned. 
Studying  with  an  eminent  violinist  seemed  to  him  an  essential  part  of 
musical  training,  and  therefore,  in  1726,  he  sent  Friede  to  Merseburg,  to 
work  for  almost  a  year  with  the  excellent  Johann  Gottlieb  Graun,  a  pupil 
of  Tartini,  and  subsequently  a  colleague  of  Emanuel  Bach  in  Berlin.  The 
result  of  the  Merseburg  studies  was  probably  quite  satisfactory;  neverthe- 
less Friede's  interest  remained  centred  in  the  keyboard  instruments  which 
his  father  had  taught  him.  As  regards  the  younger  sons,  musical  instruc- 
tion outside  the  home  did  not  seem  so  important  to  Sebastian.  In  any 
case,  since  Emanuel  was  left-handed  he  was  not  well  qualified  for  playing 
stringed  instruments.  The  father  therefore  trained  him  to  become  an  out- 
standing clavier  player,  and  he  had  the  satisfaction  of  seeing  Emanuel,  at  the 
age  of  17,  engrave  a  clavier  minuet  of  his  own,  which  was  published  almost 
simultaneously  with  Sebastian's  opus  I,  the  Clavier  Ubung.  Yet  it  was 
always  Friede  in  whom  Sebastian  was  most  interested.  He  loved  doing 
things  in  company  with  his  eldest  boy,  and  their  trips  to  Dresden,  to 
attend  opera  performances  and  visit  the  local  musicians,  were  great  treats 
for  both  of  them.  The  father's  sympathy  and  care,  so  unstintingly  given 
at  all  times,  at  first  made  life  easier  for  Friedemann,  but  proved  ultimately 
a  fatal  gift.  Sebastian's  genius  could  not  but  overwhelm  one  who  was  so 
close  to  him.  Friedemann  naturally  adopted  his  father's  artistic  tastes  and 
opinions,  and  was  unable  fully  to  follow  the  trends  of  his  own  generation. 
He  was  also  keenly  conscious  of  the  great  expectations  the  father  cherished 
for  him  and  felt  alternately  inspired  and  heavily  burdened  by  them. 
Emanuel,  on  the  other  hand,  never  achieved  Friede's  intimacy  with  his 
father;  he  admired  Sebastian  tremendously,  but  did  not  try  to  imitate  him 
and  thus  his  own  individual  style  was  able  to  develop  more  freely. 


geb.  21. 3.1685 

bis  1695 


17.  Okt.  1707 

3.   Places  significant  in  Johann  Sebastian  Bach's  life 

J.    SEBASTIAN    AND    HIS    FAMILY  193 

On  his  return  from  Merseburg,  Friedemann  continued  at  the  Thomas 
school  and  in  1729  he  graduated,  offering  a  public  valediction.  He  then 
began  his  studies  at  Leipzig  University,  where  he  remained  for  four  years, 
taking  courses  in  law,  philosophy,  and  mathematics.  Emanuel  closely 
followed  his  brother's  example;  he  entered  the  University  two  years 
later,  at  the  age  of  17,  and  remained  as  a  student  at  this  institute  until  1735. 
Both  brothers  would,  of  course,  have  been  perfectly  able  to  find  positions 
as  musicians  after  graduating  from  the  Thomas  school,  but  their  father 
was  by  no  means  anxious  for  them  to  do  so.  He  did  not  mind  supporting 
them  for  a  few  more  years  so  as  to  give  them  the  benefits  of  a  scholarly 
education.  The  musical  performances  that  he  arranged  with  their  help  in 
his  home  were  among  his  greatest  joys.  Proudly  he  wrote  to  Erdmann  in 
1730:  'All  my  children  are  born  musicians  and  from  my  own  family,  I 
assure  you,  I  can  arrange  a  concert  vocaliter  and  instrumentaliter.'  Besides, 
the  sons  were  real  helpers,  copying  music  for  him,  taking  over  the  instruc- 
tion of  some  of  his  pupils,1  and  rehearsing  for  performances;  they  thus 
cleared  the  path  for  Sebastian's  creative  work.  It  is  no  mere  accident  that 
the  St.  Matthew  Passion  was  composed  and  first  performed  in  the  years 
when  Friedemann  and  Emanuel  lived  with  their  father,  assuming  many  of 
Sebastian's  responsibilities.  In  1733,  however,  the  post  of  organist  at 
Dresden's  Sophienkirche  fell  vacant,  and  this  seemed  a  highly  suitable 
opportunity  for  Friedemann  to  start  on  his  musical  career.  Sebastian  Bach 
was  of  course  well  known  and  highly  appreciated  in  Dresden  since  his 
notable  success  in  the  projected  contest  with  Marchand  (cf.  p.  152),  and 
he  enjoyed  most  cordial  relations  with  the  eminent  court  musicians  there. 
On  the  exquisite  little  organ  built  by  Silbermann,  the  control  of  which 
Friedemann  was  now  seeking,  his  father  had  given  a  recital  two  years 
earlier  that  had  enraptured  the  Dresden  courtiers  and  music  lovers. 
Friedemann  could  thus  count  on  a  friendly  consideration  of  his  applica- 
tion, and  all  the  more  so  since  the  decisive  voice  regarding  the  appointment 
belonged  to  the  famous  Pantaleon  Hebenstreit,  who  as  a  former  con- 
ductor at  Eisenach  (cf.  p.  31)  was  well  acquainted  with  the  Bach  family. 
But  help  of  such  kind  was  hardly  necessary,  for  young  Friedemann  was 
an  inspired  virtuoso  who  profoundly  affected  his  listeners.  On  the  day 
after  the  trial  performance  the  official  document  of  appointment  was 
executed,  and  Sebastian's  eldest  son  settled  down  in  Dresden.  The  father 
was  pleased  indeed.  The  position  was  not  a  lucrative  one,  but  as  it  did  not 
involve  much  work,  the  young  musician  would  have  plenty  of  time  for 

1  Friedemann   instructed    Christoph   Nichelmann,    who    later   became,    as    second 
accompanist  at  the  Prussian  court,  Emanuel's  colleague. 

194  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

further  study  and  creative  activity.  Besides,  Dresden  was  not  far  from 
Leipzig,  and  it  would  be  easy  for  father  and  son  to  visit  each  other,  thus 
enabling  Sebastian  to  watch  his  Friede's  artistic  growth.1 

Emanuel  was  only  21,  two  years  younger  than  Friedemann,  when  he 
left  his  father's  home.  He  went  to  Frankfurt-on-the-Oder  to  continue  his 
law  studies  at  the  University,  supporting  himself  mainly  with  what  he 
earned  as  a  clavier  teacher,  for  at  that  time  he  was  already  a  masterly 
pianist.  Three  years  later  he  found  a  position  he  was  to  hold  for  27  years, 
being  appointed  accompanist  to  Friedrich  'the  Great'  of  Prussia. 

By  1735  Sebastian  had  thus  lost  the  two  most  important  helpers  in  his 
family.  Although  the  gap  left  by  these  two  was  further  widened  by  the 
departure  of  some  of  his  best  pupils,  such  as  J.  Ludwig  Krebs  and  Chr.  F. 
Schemelli  the  younger,  Sebastian  yet  saw  fit  to  find  a  position  for  his 
third  son,  Johann  Gottfried  Bernhard  (47).  There  was  a  vacancy  at  the 
organ  of  St.  Mary's  in  Muhlhausen,  and  as  Sebastian  had,  in  the  27  years 
since  his  own  service  in  this  city,  maintained  friendly  relations  with  some 
influential  citizens,  he  now  applied  on  behalf  of  his  son.  There  was  some 
opposition  from  members  of  the  Council  favouring  a  local  organist,  but 
the  weight  of  Sebastian  Bach's  name,  coupled  with  Bernhard's  excellent 
trial  performance,  was  too  strong,  and  young  Bach  was  appointed.  Sebas- 
tian had  apparently  forgotten  how  difficult  he  himself  had  found  condi- 
tions in  Muhlhausen.  His  life  at  this  moment  was  dominated  by  the  vicious 
dispute  raging  between  him  and  Rector  Ernesti,  and  any  other  place  may 
have  seemed  to  him  preferable  to  the  thunderous  atmosphere  in  Leipzig. 
Besides,  he  could  not  yet  be  sure  of  the  outcome  of  his  feud,  and  it  there- 
fore seemed  advisable  to  make  young  Bernhard  financially  independent. 
This  was  to  prove  a  fatal  decision.  Bernhard,  20  years  old,  was  not  more 
mature,  perhaps  even  less  so,  than  his  brothers  had  been  at  that  age. 
Sebastian's  wise  policy  of  allowing  his  children  to  develop  slowly  would 
have  been  particularly  beneficial  for  this  unstable  son.  But  instead  of 
receiving  a  full  University  education  he  was  sent  away  to  Muhlhausen, 
where  difficulties  started  right  away.  The  minutes  of  the  Council  meetings 
have  been  preserved2  and  they  clearly  reveal  the  animosity  of  some 
members  towards  the  new  organist.  Their  remarks  sound  like  echoes  of 
the  complaints  raised  against  20-year-old  Sebastian  in  Arnstadt  (cf.  p. 

1  We  hear  of  one  such  visit  in  1739  in  a  letter  of  Elias  Bach.  Friedemann  spent  a 
month's  vacation  with  his  father  and  brought  the  famous  Dresden  lutanists,  Sylvanus 
Weiss  and  Johann  Kropfgans,  with  him  for  glorious  music-making. 

2  Cf.  Georg  Thiele,  'Die  Familie  Bach  in  Muhlhausen,'  'Muhlhauser  Geschichts- 
blatter,'  1921. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    AND    HIS    FAMILY  195 

134).  One  Councillor  argued:  'Bach  has  preluded  far  too  much  and  too 
long,  and  thus  unduly  shortened  the  time  meant  for  the  service  and 
devotion.  Besides,  he  often  only  confuses  the  congregation  with  his 
playing.'  Another,  taking  offence  at  the  young  artist's  powerful  playing, 
exclaimed:  'If  Bach  continues  to  play  in  this  way,  the  organ  will  be  ruined 
in  two  years,  or  most  of  the  congregation  will  be  deaf.'  (Young  Bernhard 
had  apparently  adopted  Sebastian's  unconventional  method  of  drawing 
all  the  stops  at  the  same  time,  which,  according  to  Emanuel,  at  first  struck 
terror  in  the  hearts  of  the  organ  builders  or  organists  present.)  The  Mayor, 
who  from  the  outset  had  been  on  Bach's  side,  tried  to  stem  the  tide  of 
complaints.  His  remarks  confirm  Bernhard's  fine  musicianship:  'We 
should  thank  God  that  we  have  acquired  an  artistic  and  learned  organist, 
and  should  neither  order  him  to  shorten  his  preludes  nor  forbid  him  to 
play  his  instrument  in  so  masterly  a  manner.  Had  we  wanted  to  appoint  a 
bungler,  we  needn't  have  invited  an  artist  from  out  of  town.'  Various 
Councillors  were  not  dissuaded,  however,  and  persevered  in  describing 
Bach's  preludes  as  'unnecessary  and  troublesome.'  The  young  organist 
could  not  help  noticing  their  inimical  attitude.  While  his  father  in  the  same 
situation  had  felt  angry,  but  never  shaken  in  his  self-confidence,  Bernhard 
was  by  no  means  so  resilient  and  consequently  suffered  more.  It  grieved 
him  also  that  he  was  not  asked  to  co-operate  in  consultations  regarding  the 
new  organ  which  was  being  erected  in  his  church.  All  this  made  work  at 
Miihlhausen  hateful  to  him  and  he  besought  his  father  to  find  him  another 
position.  Sebastian  thereupon  succeeded  in  having  his  son  appointed  to 
the  Jakobikirche  of  Sangerhausen,  a  position  for  which  he  himself  had 
applied  in  1703  (cf.  p.  129).  Bernhard  gave  notice,  and  the  local  organist 
who  had  from  the  outset  been  favoured  by  some  of  the  Councillors  got 
the  position.  When  in  March  1737,  eighteen  months  after  his  arrival, 
Bernhard  left  Miihlhausen,  he  might  have  rejoiced  at  leaving  this  un- 
congenial place  had  he  not  at  the  very  end  been  treated  with  wounding 
suspicion.  Those  Council  members  who  had  objected  to  his  vigorous 
playing  insisted  that  before  his  departure  another  organist  should  check 
whether  Bernhard  had  left  the  organ  in  good  condition.  It  was  a  humiliating 
and,  as  it  proved,  quite  unnecessary  action  to  take  against  a  son  of  the 
organ  expert,  who  infused  into  his  pupils  a  profound  knowledge  of,  and 
veneration  for,  the  king  of  instruments.  We  can  imagine  Sebastian's  anger 
at  this  affront.  Nor  were  Bernhard's  personal  affairs  less  unpleasant.  For 
the  young  man,  shaken  by  his  artistic  failure,  had  not  adhered  to  the  strict 
standards  of  economy  and  honesty  instilled  into  him  at  home,  and  had 
incurred  debts.  What  happened  subsequently  in  Sangerhausen  can  only 

196  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

be  guessed.  Apparently  Bernhard  could  not  settle  down  there  or  rid  him- 
self of  the  habit  of  spending  more  than  he  earned.  (A  certain  carelessness 
with  money  may  have  been  inherited  from  the  great  Johann  Christoph  of 
Eisenach,  to  whom  he  was  related  on  both  sides.)  After  less  than  a  year 
he  suddenly  disappeared  from  Sangerhausen,  leaving  various  debts 
behind  him.  The  father,  informed  thereof,  wrote  as  follows  to  a  certain 
Mr.  Klemm,  who  had  been  responsible  for  Bernhard's  appointment:1 

'So  loving  and  tender  a  father  as  yourself  will  understand  the  grief  and 
sorrow  with  which  I  write  this  letter.  I  have  not  seen  my,  alas,  undutiful 
boy  since  last  year,  when  I  enjoyed  so  many  kindnesses  at  your  hands. 
Your  Honour  will  remember  that  I  then  paid  what  he  owed  for  his  board 
at  Miihlhausen,  discharged  the  bonds  . . .  and  left  a  sum  of  money  to  meet 
his  other  debts,  hoping  that  for  the  future  he  would  reform  his  genus  vitae. 
You  will  therefore  understand  how  pained  and  surprised  I  am  to  learn 
that  he  has  again  been  borrowing  money  on  all  sides  . . .  and  has  absconded 
without  giving  me,  so  far,  the  slightest  indication  of  his  whereabouts. 
What  can  I  do  or  say  more,  my  warnings  having  failed,  and  my  loving 
care  and  help  having  proved  unavailing?  I  can  only  bear  my  cross  in 
patience  and  commend  my  undutiful  boy  to  God's  mercy,  never  doubting 
that  He  will  hear  my  sorrow-stricken  prayer  and  in  His  good  time  bring 
my  son  to  understand  that  the  path  of  conversion  leads  to  Him. 

'I  have  opened  my  heart  to  your  Honour,  and  beg  you  not  to  associate 
me  with  my  son's  misconduct,  but  to  accept  my  assurance  that  I  have  done 
all  that  a  true  father,  whose  children  lie  very  close  to  his  heart,  is  bound  to 
do  to  advance  their  welfare.  I  recommended  him  to  Sangerhausen  when 
the  vacancy  occurred,  trusting  that  its  more  cultured  society  and  distin- 
guished patrons  would  incite  him  to  better  behaviour.  As  the  author  of 
his  promotion,  I  must  once  again  thank  your  Honour,  confident  that  you 
will  not  allow  the  vacance  to  be  filled  until  we  have  discovered  his  where- 
abouts (God,  who  sees  all  things,  is  my  witness  that  since  last  year  I  have 
not  set  eyes  upon  him)  and  learn  his  future  intentions,  whether  he  resolves 
to  change  his  course,  or  intends  to  seek  his  fortune  elsewhere.  .  .  .' 

In  the  meantime  Bernhard  had  gone  to  the  University  of  Jena  to  study 
law,  probably  receiving  shelter  from  his  kinsman,  Johann  Nicolaus  Bach 
(cf.  p.  87).  It  seems  likely  that  the  youth  was  disappointed  at  having  been 
deprived  of  the  scholastic  training  which  his  two  elder  brothers  had 
received,  and  now  wanted  to  make  up  for  it.  The  choice  of  Jena  was  a 

1  Translation  by  Ch.  S.  Terry,  I.e.,  reproduced  by  kind  permission  of  Oxford 
University  Press,  London. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    AND    HIS    FAMILY  197 

wise  one.  Nicolaus  Bach's  only  son  had  died  a  few  months  earlier,  and  the 
aged  organist  must  have  gladly  welcomed  his  gifted  kinsman,  who  could 
relieve  him  of  part  of  his  duties  and  eventually  become  his  successor.  But 
whatever  Bernhard's  plans  were,  they  came  to  nothing;  for  only  four 
months  after  his  matriculation,  this  third  son  of  Sebastian  died  suddenly 
of  'fever'  at  the  age  of  24. 

While  the  sons  from  Sebastian's  first  marriage  were  pursuing  their 
own  careers,  a  new  generation  was  growing  up  in  the  Thomas  Cantor's 
house.  The  cradle  never  stood  empty.  In  the  first  decade  of  their  Leipzig 
stay  ten  children  were  born  to  the  couple;  three  more  followed  at  wider 
intervals  up  to  the  year  1742.  But  for  Anna  Magdalena  the  joy  of  mother- 
hood was  inextricably  mixed  with  tragedy,  for  death  was  far  too  frequent 
a  guest  in  this  house.  Of  the  six  children  surviving  out  of  thirteen,  the 
eldest,  Gottfried  Heinrich,  caused  the  parents  much  grief  and  heartache. 
In  the  Genealogy  the  note  referring  to  this  son  reads:  'Gottfried  Heinrich, 
likewise  inclined  towards  music,  especially  clavier  playing.  His  was  a  great 
talent,  which,  however,  remained  undeveloped.'  These  words  veil  the 
tragic  fact  that  this  son  was  feeble-minded.1  Among  the  remaining  off- 
spring there  were  three  girls,  and  two  sons,  Johann  Christoph  Friedrich, 
born  in  1732,  and  Johann  Christian,  three  years  younger,  both  highly 
gifted.  How  to  educate  them  was  rather  a  problem,  for  Sebastian  did  not 
care  to  have  them  attend  the  Thomas  school,  with  whose  rector  he  had 
quarrelled  so  violently.  Fortunately  a  satisfactory  solution  was  offered  by 
the  visit  of  a  cousin  from  Schweinfurt,  Johann  Elias  Bach  (39),  a  grand- 
son of  Ambrosius'  brother,  Georg  Christoph  (10),  who  in  1738,  at  the 
age  of  33,  came  to  Leipzig  to  study  Theology  on  a  scholarship  granted  by 
the  council  of  his  native  town  and  by  a  rich  benefactor.2  Sebastian,  who 
had  also  trained  Elias'  brother  (cf.  p.  149),  suggested  that  Elias  should 
stay  at  his  home,  and  in  return  for  board  and  lodging  teach  the  three  sons 
and  do  some  secretarial  work.  A  contract  was  concluded,  and  before  long 
most  cordial  relations  developed  between  the  Schweinfurt  cousin  and  the 
Thomas  Cantor's  family.  Various  drafts  of  Elias'  letters  have  been  pre- 
served, and  they  reveal  the  writer  as  a  lovable  person  who  participated 
with  faithful  devotion  in  all  that  happened  in  the  Bach  household.  He 
took  his  teaching  duties  very  seriously,  especially  when  he  was  preparing 
his  charges  for  Communion.  In  1741  another  position  was  offered  him, 

1  A  case  of  this  kind  had  occurred  in  an  earlier  Bach  generation,  a  sister  of  Ambrosius 
Bach  having  been  half-witted. 

2  Elias  had  started  his  University  studies  many  years  earlier  at  Jena,  but  had  been 
forced  through  lack  of  funds  to  return  home  before  finishing  the  courses. 


but  he  refused  it  stating  that  the  relatives  under  his  care,  especially  the 
eldest,  were  'in  the  greatest  need  of  a  solid  and  faithful  instruction.'  Elias 
wrote  about  his  eminent  cousin's  new  works  to  other  musicians;  he  tried 
to  brighten  Magdalena's  hard  life  by  obtaining  plants  and  singing  birds 
for  her;  and  he  urged  his  sister  to  send  Sebastian  a  supply  of  her  excellent 
home-made  cider.  Once,  when  the  master  was  in  Berlin,  Elias,  knowing 
his  cousin's  tendency  unduly  to  extend  absences  from  Leipzig,  reminded 
Sebastian  of  the  imminent  Council  election,  for  which  a  new  composition 
by  the  Director  Musices  was  expected.  So  Elias  was  a  great  help  in  many 
respects  and  always  eager  to  serve  his  relatives.  On  the  other  hand,  he 
would  not  have  exerted  himself  so  much  had  he  not,  as  he  wrote,  'received 
so  much  kindness'  from  Sebastian  and  the  family.  We  learn,  for  instance, 
that  the  Thomas  Cantor  lent  Elias  his  huge  furlined  boots  and  raincoat, 
both  particularly  dear  to  him  as  the  indispensable  paraphernalia  of  those 
trips  out-of-town  which  he  enjoyed  so  much.  Sebastian  also  took  his 
secretary  with  him  on  journeys  to  Dresden  and  introduced  Elias  to  as 
high-ranking  a  music  lover  as  Count  Keyserlingk  (cf.  p.  188).  Besides,  the 
concerts  at  the  Thomas  Cantor's  home,  frequently  attended  by  outstanding 
visiting  musicians,  must  have  been  experiences  never  to  be  forgotten  by 
the  kinsman  from  Schweinfurt.  Indeed,  so  greatly  indebted  to  his  Leip- 
zig cousin  did  Elias  feel  that  years  after  his  departure  he  sent  to  Leipzig 
a  cask  of  his  home-made  wine.  Sebastian's  answer1  shall  follow  here,  as  a 
good  example  of  the  composer's  outspokenness  and  careful  consideration 
of  even  a  minor  financial  matter: 

'Worthy  and  respected  cousin: 

Your  letter,  received  yesterday,  brings  me  the  good  news  that  you 
and  your  dear  wife  are  well.  For  the  delectable  cask  of  wine  that  came 
with  it  accept  my  best  thanks.  Unfortunately  the  cask  suffered  a  jar,  or 
some  other  accident,  on  the  journey,  for  on  examination  here  it  was  found 
to  be  one-third  empty  and  contains,  the  Visitator  declares,  only  six  quarts. 
It  is  regrettable  that  the  smallest  drop  of  so  noble  a  gift  of  God  should  be 
wasted,  but  I  am  none  the  less  heartily  obliged  by  my  worthy  cousin's 
kind  present.  Pro  nunc  I  am  not  reellement  in  a  position  to  reciprocate; 
still  quod  differtur  non  auffertur  [what  is  postponed,  is  not  relinquished], 
and  I  hope  to  find  an  opportunity  to  discharge  my  obligation. 

'It  is  unfortunate  that  we  live  so  far  apart,  for  otherwise  I  should  give 
myself  the  pleasure  of  inviting  my  cousin  to  my  daughter  Liesgen's 
wedding,  which  takes  place  in  January  1749,  to  the  new  Naumburg 

1  Translation  by  Ch.  S.  Terry,  I.e.,  reproduced  by  kind  permission  of  Oxford 
University  Press,  London. 


organist,  Herr  Altnikol.  However,  though  for  that  reason,  and  because  of 
the  inconvenient  season,  he  cannot  be  present,  I  will  ask  him  to  assist 
them  with  his  good  wishes,  and  with  the  same  I  commend  myself  to  my 
good  cousin's  remembrance.  With  warmest  greetings  to  you  from  all  here, 
I  remain, 

Your  Honour's  devoted  cousin  and  faithful 

servant  to  command 

Joh.  Seb.  Bach. 
P.S.  Though  my  good  cousin  offers  to  send  me  more  of  the  same  liqueur, 
I  must  decline  on  account  of  the  heavy  charges  at  this  end.  The  carriage 
was  16  gr.,  delivery  2  gr.,  Visitator  2  gr.,  provincial  excise  5  gr.  3  pfg., 
general  excise  3  gr.  So  my  cousin  may  calculate  that  the  wine  cost  me 
nearly  5  gr.  a  measure,  too  expensive  a  present!' 

By  the  time  this  letter  was  written,  Elias  was  well  settled  in  his  home- 
town as  Cantor  and  inspector  of  the  Alumneum.  When,  in  1743,  he  had 
secured  'a  permanent  place  and  an  assured  small  sustenance  for  his  life- 
time,' he  had  seen  to  it  that  'an  honest  engagement  which  he  had  entered 
into  after  careful  consideration  with  a  young  lady  in  Leipzig,  should  now 
receive  the  minister's  blessing.'1  However,  the  happiness  of  the  newly- 
wed  did  not  last  long;  Elias'  wife  died  two  years  later,  and  in  1746  we  see 
him  entering  holy  matrimony  again.2  When  his  second  wife  wanted  to 
acquire  citizenship  of  Schweinfurt,  Elias  applied  to  the  Council  to  grant 
her  this  privilege  free  of  charge,  and  offered  in  return  a  set  of  cantatas  of 
his  composition  for  the  whole  church  year.  He  frequently  wrote  works  of 
this  kind,3  but  he  had  been  too  close  to  the  genius  of  the  family  to  think 
highly  of  his  own  achievements.4 

1  Letter  dated  May  27,  1743  to  Herr  v.  Pflug,  'Die  Musik,'  l.c. 

2  One  of  the  children,  Johann  Michael,  born  in  1754,  or  1753,  seems  to  have  been 
the  first,  and  probably  only,  Bach  musician  to  travel  to  the  United  States.  After  returning 
to  Europe,  he  eventually  gave  up  music  in  favour  of  the  practice  of  law,  and  setded  down 
as  lawyer  at  Giistrow,  Mecklenburg,  far  from  his  native  Franconia.  He  is  probably  the 
author  of  the  'Kurze  und  systematische  Anleitung  zum  Generalbass  und  der  Tonkunst' 
published  at  Cassel  in  1780.  The  whimsical  introduction  is  dated  'Gottingen,  3  July  1780.' 
This  short  manual  of  47  pages  consists  of  8  chapters  dealing  with  consonances,  dissonances, 
changing  notes,  passing  modulations,  pedal  points  and  figured  bass.  The  last  chapter  offers 
numerous  examples.  The  same  Michael  Bach  may  be  the  composer  of  an  extensive 
Friedenskantate  for  solos,  4-part  chorus,  flute,  bassoons,  trumpets,  timpani,  horns  and 
strings,  which  was  formerly  the  property  of  the  Berlin  Library  (p.  399).  According  to  its 
style,  the  work  belongs  approximately  to  the  same  period  as  the  'Anleitung.' 

3  In  1743  he  received  20  thalers  from  the  Council  for  two  sets  of  church  cantatas. 

4  While  in  Leipzig  he  wrote  to  his  benefactor,  Herr  v.  Segnitz,  that  he  was  anxious 
to  obtain  a  position  as  teacher,  'music  being  by  no  means  my  main  occupation,  as  one 
might  think.' 

200  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

While  Elias  was  in  Leipzig,  he  became  much  attached  to  a  young  kins- 
man, who  was  working  with  Sebastian.  This  was  the  master's  godson, 
Johann  Ernst  Bach  (34),  b.  1722,  a  son  of  the  Eisenach  organist,  Johann 
Bernhard  (18),  who,  on  the  other  hand,  had  been  godfather  to  Sebastian's 
unlucky  third  son.  At  the  Thomas  school  young  Ernst  was  not  very 
successful.  Apparently  he  too  possessed  the  Bach  predilection  for  exceed- 
ing a  leave  of  absence  that  so  often  caused  trouble  with  the  authorities. 
In  Ernst's  case  it  resulted  in  his  dismissal  from  the  alumnate.  However  he 
stayed  on  in  Leipzig,  probably  boarding  with  his  godfather,  and  even- 
tually he  matriculated  at  the  University  as  a  law  student.  But  he  was  not 
permitted  to  finish  his  studies,  for  by  the  end  of  1741  his  father  requested 
him  to  return  to  Eisenach.  This  was  a  hard  blow  for  the  ambitious  youth. 
There  was  a  great  difference  between  the  stimulating  atmosphere  in 
Sebastian's  home,  with  its  stream  of  visiting  artists  and  enthusiastic 
disciples,  and  life  in  provincial  Eisenach;  a  difference  all  the  more  notice- 
able since  the  court  orchestra,  on  which  Ernst  had  apparently  counted, 
was  disbanded  in  1741  owing  to  the  fusion  of  the  little  principality  of 
Eisenach  with  that  of  Weimar.  Ernst  wrote  about  'annoying  conditions' 
and  his  kinsman,  Elias,  probably  prompted  by  Sebastian,  had  to  admonish 
him  as  follows:1  Tt  seems  to  me  necessary  and  advisable  for  you  to  bear 
for  some  time  with  the  solitude  there,  in  order  to  assist  your  honest  old 
Papa,  for,  as  the  Herr  Kapellmeister  [Sebastian]  assured  me,  the  post  of 
organist  in  Eisenach  carries  an  income  that  can  support  an  honest  man.' 
Ernst  followed  the  advice,  assisting  his  father  competently,  and  when 
Bernhard  died  in  1749, tne  position  was,  as  a  matter  of  course,  conferred 
on  the  son.  Thus  Sebastian  had  the  pleasure  of  seeing  yet  another  highly 
gifted  student  of  his  well  settled. 

Similar  satisfaction  was  granted  him  through  the  achievements  of  his 
own  children  in  his  last  years.  In  1746  he  saw  Friede  moving  from 
Dresden  into  an  important  position  at  Halle,  which  he  himself  had  once 
considered  (cf.  p.  146).  Emanuel  was  gaining  fame  with  his  compositions 
and  was  happily  married.  Liesgen,  the  eldest  daughter  from  his  second 
marriage,  was  as  we  have  heard,  wedded  to  Sebastian's  excellent  pupil, 
Johann  Christoph  Altnikol,  after  he  had,  with  the  Thomas  Cantor's  help, 
secured  a  position  in  Naumburg.  It  was  the  only  wedding  ever  celebrated 
in  Sebastian's  home,  and  therefore  an  occasion  of  much  rejoicing.  Even 
his  18-year-old  son,  Johann  Christoph  Friedrich,  was  appointed,  early  in 
1750,  Kammermusikus  to  Count  Wilhelm  of  Schaumburg-Lippe  in 
Biickeburg.  A  very  small  family-group  was  with  Sebastian  while  darkness 

1  Letter  dated  January  9,  1742. 

J.    SEBASTIAN    AND    HIS    FAMILY  201 

closed  around  him.  There  was  his  eldest  daughter,  a  spinster  of  42;  half- 
witted Gottfried  Heinrich;  two  young  girls,  aged  13  and  8;  and  Johann 
Christian,  aged  15.  Of  these  the  last-mentioned  meant  most  to  Sebastian, 
who  took  great  delight  in  the  brilliant  musical  talent  of  his  youngest  son 
and  expressed  it  by  presenting  Christian,  shortly  before  his  death,  with 
three  of  his  claviers.  Finally  there  was  Anna  Magdalena,  ready  as  ever 
faithfully  to  share  with  her  husband  whatever  life  was  bringing  them,  and 
by  her  very  presence  lightening  his  burden.  The  wish  he  had  long  ago 
expressed  in  his  poem  to  his  beloved  wife  (cf.  p.  161),  was  now  fulfilled; 
she  was  near  him  in  the  hour  of  final  struggle. 

202  THE    BACH    FAMILY 


If  an  attempt  were  made  to  characterize  the  art  of  the  greatest  member 
of  the  Bach  family  in  a  single  word,  it  would  have  to  be  the  word  'unifica- 
tion.' The  most  heterogeneous  elements  were  welded  together  by  him 
into  a  new  entity,  completely  coherent  in  character. 

Sebastian  Bach  is  the  greatest  force  in  the  unification  of  various 
regional  and  national  styles.  The  sources  of  his  art  can  be  found  in  Central, 
Northern,  and  Southern  Germany  alike.  Of  equal  importance  in  the 
development  of  his  style  were  the  impulses  his  music  received  from  the 
works  of  Italian  and  French  composers.  And  Bach  was  almost  as  much 
indebted  to  Catholic  composers  as  he  was  to  the  masters  of  his  own  faith. 
Out  of  a  soil  nurtured  by  the  most  diversified  elements  grew  the  gigantic 
structure  of  Sebastian's  personal  style. 

Bach  acted  as  a  typically  Baroque  composer  in  recognizing  no  funda- 
mental difference  between  sacred  and  secular  music,  nor  even  between 
vocal  and  instrumental  composition.  Nothing  gave  him  greater  joy  than 
experimenting  in  the  various  media.  He  applied  devices  of  the  keyboard 
style  to  music  for  strings  alone,  and  the  technique  of  the  violin  to  clavier 
compositions.  Elements  of  the  Italian  concerto  may  be  found  in  almost 
every  form  of  his  music,  including  the  cantata.  Bach  constantly  arranged 
and  improved  compositions  by  others  or  by  himself,  transforming 
orchestral  works  into  clavier  compositions,  instrumental  into  vocal  music, 
secular  into  sacred,  and  German  into  Latin  church  works  (cf.  p.  240).  He 
retained  something  of  the  medieval  conception  in  which  music  was  un- 
divided, and  a  tune  could  be  sung  or  played,  used  for  a  dance  round  the 
village  tree  or  for  the  praise  of  the  Lord  in  church. 

Bach's  inexhaustible  imagination  created  an  immense  variety  of  archi- 
tectural forms.  No  two  of  his  inventions,  fugues  or  cantatas  show  exactly 
the  same  construction.  Nevertheless,  there  is  a  basic  feature  that  recurs 
again  and  again  in  both  his  vocal  and  instrumental  compositions.  Bach 
was  deeply  concerned  with  the  'chiastic'  form,  built  round  a  centre  with 
corresponding  sections  on  each  side.  In  its  simplest  version  it  is  the  da 
capo  form  aba,  so  often  used  by  Bach;  but  also  more  complicated 
arrangements  abcba  or  abcdcba  are  not  unusual.  The  deeply 
religious  composer  may  have  found  satisfaction  in  the  thought  that  works 
in  chiastic  form  have  their  visual  equivalents  in  the  structure  of  a  cross, 
with  two  corresponding  sidearms  emerging  from  a  middle  beam,  or  in 


that  of  a  church  with  side  transepts  flanking  a  central  nave.  Such  correla- 
tions seemed  quite  natural  to  Baroque  artists  and  Bach  was  in  this  respect 
a  true  son  of  his  time. 

This  accounts  also  for  the  tremendous  importance  which  pictorialism 
assumed  in  Bach's  vocabulary,  as  it  did  in  that  of  his  contemporaries. 
High  and  low,  long  and  short,  bright  and  dark,  were  given  in  his 
music  expressions  typical  of  this  era.  From  pictorialism  Bach  proceeded 
to  symbolism,  in  which  intellectual  conceptions  take  the  place  of  sensory 
impressions.  In  the  Cantata  No.  12  JVeinen,  Klagen,  for  instance,  the  bass 
sings  'I  follow  Jesus  Christ.'  The  imitatio  Christi  is  expressed  through 
strict  imitation  of  the  vocal  melody  in  the  string  parts.  Moreover,  this 
tune  is  derived  from  the  chorale  melody  'What  God  does,  is  with  reason 
done.'  Thus  Bach  uses  symbolism  here  in  two  different  ways  within 
the  narrow  space  of  two  measures.  The  symbolic  employment  of 
chorale  melodies  so  frequent  in  Bach's  vocal  works  will  be  discussed 

Of  particular  importance  is  the  figure  symbolism,  such  as  the  use  of 
an  unlucky  number  in  the  13  variations  of  the  Crucifixus  in  the  Mass  in  b. 
Moreover,  substituting  figures  for  the  letters  of  the  alphabet  was  a 
common  practice  of  the  time,  and  one  from  which  Bach  derived  great 
satisfaction.  Fourteen,  for  instance,  is  the  figure  symbolizing  Bach,  since 
b  is  the  second  letter  of  the  alphabet,  a  the  first,  c  the  third,  h  the  eighth, 
the  sum  of  which  is  14.  Inverted,  14  turns  into  41,  which  stands  for  J.  S. 
Bach,  as  J  is  the  ninth,  S  the  eighteenth  letter  and  9  plus  18  plus  14  makes 
41.  In  Bach's  very  last  composition,  'Before  Thy  throne,  my  God,  I  stand,' 
the  first  line  contains  14  notes,  the  whole  melody  41  notes,  as  though  the 
dying  composer  wanted  to  announce  that  he,  Bach,  J.  S.  Bach,  was 
entering  the  eternal  choir.1 

The  composer's  profound  intellectualism  made  him  adopt  polyphony 
as  his  favourite  means  of  expression,  and  in  this  respect  his  work  marks 
the  summit  of  a  magnificent  development  through  several  centuries.  But 
while  Bach,  in  his  contrapuntal  style,  was  firmly  linked  to  the  past,  the 
harmonic  idiom  he  employed  was  of  a  most  progressive  nature,  opening 
up  new  realms  of  musical  expression,  to  which  even  19th-century  harmony 
did  not  find  much  to  add.  No  other  composer  succeeded  in  bringing  poly- 
phony and  harmony  to  so  complete  a  fusion.  Bach's  most  intricate  contra- 
puntal creations  are  always  conceived  on  a  strictly  harmonic  basis,  while 

1  The  amazing  forms  which  figure  symbolism  assumed  in  the  canon  Bach  wrote  for 
his  admission  to  Mizler's  Societat  are  analyzed  in  Friedrich  Smend's  'J.  S.  Bach  bei  seinem 
Namen  gerufen,'  Cassel,  1950. 

204  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

even  in  his  plain  harmonizations  of  the  chorale,  the  linear  progression  of 
the  individual  voices  is  superb.  Vertical  and  horizontal  elaboration  are 
completely  balanced  and  equally  breathtaking. 

The  development  of  J.  S.  Bach's  art  resembles  that  of  other  great  men. 
It  shows  features  which  we  find  again  in  the  spiritual  growth  of  such 
widely  differing  composers  as  Schiitz,  Haydn,  Beethoven,  Brahms,  Verdi, 
and  Stravinsky.  As  happens  so  often,  changes  in  the  composer's  style 
coincide  with  alterations  in  his  surroundings  and  occupation. 

Bach's  first  creative  phase,  the  period  of  youth,  lasted  up  to  the  year 
1708.  It  was  the  time  of  his  apprenticeship,  terminated  by  engagements  in 
Arnstadt  and  Miihlhausen.  Bach  eagerly  absorbed  the  music  of  his  con- 
temporaries and  predecessors  by  playing  it,  listening  to  it  and,  above  all, 
copying  it.  The  number  of  works  he  acquired  by  writing  them  down 
faithfully  is  substantial  indeed.  It  comprises  compositions  by  members  of 
his  own  clan,  works  by  North  Germans  and  South  Germans,  Protestants 
and  Catholics,  and  Italian  and  French  masters.  Like  the  young  Mozart  he 
found  himself  by  imitating  others.  In  this  first  period  the  contents  of  a 
work  seemed  of  greater  interest  and  importance  to  the  composer  than  the 
form  in  which  it  was  cast.  The  works  are  rich  in  ideas,  imbued  with  ardent 
fervour,  and  tender  subjectivity;  they  are  colourful,  and  their  emotional 
expression  is  often  of  elemental  strength.  At  the  same  time  their  technical 
immaturity  is  obvious.  They  are  overlong,  vague  in  their  formal  construc- 
tion, uncertain  in  their  harmonic  and  polyphonic  texture.  It  was  a  period 
of  experimentation,  in  which  young  Sebastian  tried  his  hand  on  various 
types  of  composition  such  as  sonatas,  toccatas,  capriccios,  preludes  and 
fugues,  chorale  preludes  and  cantatas. 

Bach's  second  creative  period,  the  transition  from  youth  to  maturity, 
was  spent  in  Weimar  (1708-1717).  It  was  still  a  phase  of  extensive  studies, 
but  Sebastian  did  not  merely  make  copies  of  works  that  interested  him; 
he  rearranged  them,  imbuing  them  with  his  own  personality.  He  adapted 
concertos  by  Italian  and  German  musicians  for  clavier  and  organ,  and 
occasionally  used  Italian  themes  as  subjects  for  his  own  fugues.  The  study 
of  the  Southern  masters  developed  Bach's  feeling  for  poignant  melodies, 
solid  harmonies,  and  well-rounded  forms.  'Through  a  singing  polyphony 
he  achieved  a  heretofore  unknown  warmth,  vividness  and  intensity.' 
(Besseler.)  In  Weimar  Bach  wisely  concentrated  on  a  single  type  of  music, 
church  composition,  systematically  exploring  all  its  possibilities.  The 
Bach  of  the  second  period  was  the  great  virtuoso  on  the  'king  of  instru- 
ments.' Youthful  exuberance  and  fantastic  imagination  are  still  apparent 
in  some  of  the  organ  works  of  this  period,  while  others  reveal  the  newly 


acquired  mastery  of  contrapuntal  form  and  well-balanced  architecture. 
Similar  in  character  is  Bach's  vocal  music.  The  Weimar  cantatas,  com- 
bining elements  of  the  chorale  motet,  the  sacred  concerto,  and  the  Italian 
opera,  present  formal  aspects  later  to  be  found  in  Bach's  mature  cantatas. 
However,  their  lyric  ardour  and  subjective  expression  point  to  their  affinity 
with  earlier  works. 

In  1717,  at  the  age  of  32,  Bach  became  conductor  in  charge  of  all 
chamber  music  at  the  court  of  Cothen.  This  appointment  marked  the 
beginning  of  his  period  of  maturity,  lasting  until  1740,  in  which  he  created 
the  greatest  number  of  supreme  masterpieces.  During  these  years  Bach's 
career  reached  its  culminating  point.  After  working  as  Kapellmeister  to  a 
princely  court,  he  was  entrusted  in  1723  with  an  even  more  important 
position,  that  of  Thomas  Cantor  and  director  musices  in  Leipzig,  thus 
assuming  a  central  post  within  the  Lutheran  faith.  In  this  period  Bach  no 
longer  concentrated  on  a  single  type  of  music,  as  he  had  more  or  less  done 
in  the  transitional  phase.  He  was  active  in  practically  every  field  of  music 
cultivated  in  his  time,  with  the  sole  exception  of  opera  proper,  although  he 
made  ample  use  of  its  style  and  forms  both  in  his  secular  and  sacred  vocal 
music.  The  unification  of  leading  national  styles  culminated  during  this 
period,  and  in  the  field  of  religion,  too,  Bach  approached  the  conception 
of  a  more  universal  Christianity.  Though  he  had  been  brought  up  as  an 
orthodox  Lutheran,  the  mystical  fervour  of  many  of  his  Weimar  and  Leip- 
zig church  cantatas  reveals  a  leaning  towards  the  same  pietistic  ideas  that 
he  had  so  fiercely  denounced  in  his  youth,  as  an  organist  in  Miihlhausen. 
Without  any  compunction  the  mature  Bach  worked  for  many  years  at  the 
reformed  court  of  Cothen,  and  wrote  Masses  for  the  Catholic  Elector  of 
Saxony  and  for  Count  Sporck,  who  was  famous  for  his  attempts  'to  unify 
all  Christian  denominations  into  a  single  great  community  of  a  tolerant 
and  active  Christianity.'1 

It  is  significant  that  Bach,  the  great  organ  virtuoso,  first  reached  the 
climax  of  his  creative  output  in  the  field  of  instrumental  music,  and  only 
afterwards  in  vocal  music.  Cothen  saw  the  creation  of  such  works  as  the 
two-  and  three-part  Inventions,  the  French  and  English  Suites,  the  first 
part  of  the  Well-Tempered  Clavier,  the  orchestral  Overtures,  and  the 
Brandenburg  Concertos.  Among  the  compositions  created  in  Leipzig, 
however,  were  the  majority  of  the  church  cantatas,  the  Magnificat, 
Christmas  Oratario  and  St.  Matthew  Passion  as  well  as  the  B  minor 

Bach's  creative  ability  in  this  period  was  so  powerful  that  he  felt  a 

1  Cf.  H.  Benedikt's  biography  of  Sporck,  1923,  p.  160. 

206  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

strong  urge  to  teach  others  the  great  art  of  music.  The  majority  of  his 
clavier  works  are  meant  for  educational  purposes.  Bach  was  possibly 
the  only  great  composer  who,  far  from  resenting  the  necessity  of 
teaching  others,  wrote  instructive  works  on  the  highest  level  of  per- 

Bach's  fourth  period  comprises  the  ultimate  decade  of  his  life  (1740- 
1750).  Like  other  masters  nearing  the  conclusion  of  their  existence,  Bach 
felt  closer  to  the  distant  past  than  to  the  near  present.  At  the  same  time 
future  trends  are  significantly  foreshadowed  in  his  compositions.  Though 
the  amount  of  music  written  during  this  last  period  gradually  decreased, 
it  included  works  imbued  with  the  deepest  meaning,  such  as  the  Canonic 
Variations  on  Vom  Himmel  hochy  da  komm  ich  her,  the  Musical  Offering, 
and  the  Art  of  the  Fugue.  Each  of  them  is  monumental  in  its  scope,  and 
archaic  in  its  form  and  character.  The  Canonic  Variations  lead  us  back  to 
the  organ  chorales  of  Scheidt,  almost  a  hundred  years  before  Bach;  while 
in  the  fugues  and  canons  of  the  Art  of  the  Fugue  the  composer  presents  an 
abstract  course  in  the  most  exalted  contrapuntal  forms  of  earlier  centuries. 
These  works  might  be  considered  as  the  artistic  testament  of  the  greatest 
genius  in  the  field  of  contrapuntal  writing.  In  this  same  period,  however, 
we  occasionally  find,  in  form,  harmony,  and  melody,  traits  which  it  seems 
that  only  a  composer  young  and  progressive  in  spirit  could  have  pro- 
duced. A  strict  chorale  cantata  contains  so  simple  and  naive  a  number  as 
the  duet  'We  hasten'  (cf.  p.  222),  and  the  potpourri  of  folksongs  in  the 
Peasant  Cantata  precedes  the  Canonic  Variations  only  by  a  few  years. 
It  is  of  symbolic  significance  that  the  Musical  Offering  contains  a  Ricercar, 
one  of  the  earliest  forms  of  fugal  writing,  conceived  for  the  pianoforte, 
the  keyboard  instrument  of  the  future. 

Whether  archaic  or  progressive  elements  predominate,  the  supreme 
strength,  the  variety  and  vitality  of  Bach's  music  made  it  an  inexhaustible 
source  of  inspiration  to  later  generations.  Indeed,  his  influence  on  the 
19th  and  20th  centuries  has  probably  not  been  exceeded  by  that  of  any 
other  composer. 


Bach's  vocal  works  form  an  inseparable  unit.  The  interrelations  are 
even  stronger  here  than  among  the  instrumental  compositions.  It  is  the 
church  cantata  that  forms  the  core  of  his  vocal  output;  motet,  oratorio, 
and  passion,  as  well  as  the  secular  cantatas,  are  all  closely  connected  with 


it,  and  it  therefore  seems  advisable,  in  discussing  the  various  aspects  of 
Bach's  music  for  voices,  to  begin  with  the  Church  Cantatas.1 

Only  very  few  of  these  cantatas  bear  a  date  in  the  composer's  hand. 
Scholars  have  nevertheless  succeeded  in  most  cases  in  ascertaining  at  least 
the  approximate  time  of  composition.  Changes  in  Bach's  handwriting, 
certain  watermarks  in  the  paper,  and  the  date  of  publication  of  the  libretto, 
have  offered  valuable  clues.  Of  particular  significance  was  Bach's  peculiar 
way  of  transposing  the  parts  of  wind  instruments  and  organ  respectively. 
In  Weimar  the  organ  he  used  seems  to  have  been  tuned  in  the  so-called 
hoher  Chorton  (high  choir  pitch),  a  minor  third  above  the  Kammerton 
(chamber  pitch)  of  the  other  instruments.  The  inexperienced  composer 
used  the  following  rather  complicated  device  to  cope  with  this  difficulty. 
He  wrote  for  organ  and  strings  in  the  same  key,  expecting  the  string 
players  to  tune  their  instruments  a  third  higher,  according  to  the  pitch 
of  the  organ.  Since  most  wind  instruments  could  not  change  their  pitch, 
these  parts  were  written  in  the  key  in  which  they  were  to  sound,  viz.  a 
third  higher  than  the  strings.2  Any  manuscripts  written  in  this  way  clearly 
belong  to  Bach's  Weimar  period.3  In  Leipzig  the  organs  of  St.  Thomas' 
and  St.  Nicholas'  were  tuned  in  the  ordinary  Chorton,  one  whole  tone 
above  the  other  instruments.  Here  Bach  used  a  much  simpler  notation;  he 
merely  transposed  the  figured  bass  part  meant  for  the  organ  one  whole 
tone  down,  while  all  the  other  instruments  were  written  in  the  key  in 
which  they  sounded.  The  transposed  organ  part  is  therefore  characteristic 
of  the  music  written  in  Leipzig. 

The  widespread  conception  that  Bach  himself  played  the  organ  in  the 
Leipzig  performances  of  his  vocal  works  cannot  be  upheld.  It  would  have 

1  The  great  number  of  sacred  and  secular  Songs  for  Solo  Voice  and  Instrumental  Bass 
formerly  attributed  to  Bach  has  shrunk  considerably  in  view  of  recent  research.  To-day 
only  a  few  of  the  songs  in  Anna  Magdalena's  Notebook,  such  as  the  heartfelt  Bist  du  bei 
mir  (BWV  508)  and  the  three  different  settings  of  Gib  dich  mfrieden  {BWV  510-12,  cf. 
p.  161),  are  considered  as  Bach's  own  works.  For  Schemelli's  Gesangbuch  (BWV  439- 
507)  of  1736  Bach  provided  the  figuring  of  the  basses,  but  again  only  three  of  the  songs, 
viz.  Dir,  dir  Jehova  will  ich  singen  (BWV 452),  Komm  siisser  Tod  (B  WV  478)  and  Vergiss 
mein  nicht  {BWV  505)  may  be  claimed  to  be  authentic  Bach  compositions. 

2  Smend,  'Bachs  Kirchenkantaten,'  VI,  rightly  maintains  that  cantatas  without  wind 
instruments  known  to  have  been  composed  in  Weimar,  such  as  Nos.  152,  161,  162,  ought 
to  be  performed  in  a  key  one  third  higher,  since  it  is  obvious  that  during  Bach's  time  they 
were  heard  at  this  higher  pitch. 

3  It  was  recendy  pointed  out  that  the  Weimar  organ  with  the  'high  choir  pitch' 
described  by  G.  A.  Wette  in  1737  was  an  instrument  fundamentally  reconstructed  in  1719- 
1720,  i.e.  after  Bach's  departure  from  Weimar.  Cf.  Jauernig,  l.c.  Yet  the  peculiar  notation  of 
cantatas  that  we  know  were  performed  in  Weimar,  offers  ample  evidence  that  the  composer's 
instrument  was  tuned  in  the  same  way  as  that  described  by  Wette. 

208  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

been  beneath  the  dignity  of  the  director  musices  to  accompany  on  this 
instrument.  He  conducted  with  the  help  of  music  rolls  in  both  hands, 
standing  next  to  the  organ,  the  way  the  conductor  acts  in  a  picture  to  be 
found  in  J.  G.  Walther's  'Music  Lexicon.'  Another  misconception,  that  a 
harpsichord  was  used  for  the  accompaniment  of  solos,  and  the  organ  for 
that  of  the  chorus,  was  conclusively  proved  to  be  wrong  by  Arnold 
Schering.  In  both  solo  numbers  and  choral  sections,  Bach  had  the  figured 
bass  executed  only  by  the  organ,  and  not  by  the  harpsichord.1  This  latter 
instrument  was  employed  exclusively  to  accompany  Bach's  motets,  since 
the  composer,  as  a  true  son  of  his  time,  never  considered  using  voices 
without  instruments. 

Bach's  cantatas  were  performed  by  very  small  groups.  On  ordinary 
Sundays  the  composer  had  approximately  25  musicians  at  his  disposal:  12 
singers  and  13  instrumentalists  (cf.  his  report  to  the  Council,  p.  177).  For 
certain  occasions  the  number  might  be  increased  to  40,  and  for  the  St. 
Matthew  Passion,  with  its  special  demands,  he  even  managed  to  get  60 
musicians  together.  The  soloists  were  also  utilized  in  the  chorus,  and  all 
vocalists  were  either  boys  or  men.  It  seems  that  the  breaking  of  a  boy's 
voice  at  that  time  occurred  later  in  life  than  it  does  to-day,  so  that  Bach  was 
not  forced  to  rely  only  on  very  young  boys  for  his  soprano  and  alto  parts. 
Besides,  University  students  who  had  mastered  the  falsetto  technique 
helped  out  occasionally.  In  all  these  performances  the  number  of  instru- 
mentalists slightly  exceeded  that  of  the  vocalists,  a  fact  present-day 
conductors  might  well  bear  in  mind. 

According  to  Forkel,  Bach  wrote  five  sets  of  church  cantatas  for  all 
the  Sundays  and  holy  days  of  the  ecclesiastical  year.  If  this  statement  is 
correct,  he  must  have  produced  almost  300  cantatas,  of  which,  however, 
less  than  200  have  been  preserved.  These  compositions  were  written  over 
a  period  of  41  years,  the  first  in  1704,  the  last  in  1745. 

Bach's  early  works  in  this  field,  up  to  about  171 2,  are  strongly  depen- 
dent on  models  provided  by  the  North  and  Central  German  cantata  of 
his  time.  They  are  basically  similar  to  those  by  older  members  of  the  Bach 
family,  or  those  of  Pachelbel,  Bohm,  and  Buxtehude.  Their  texts  are  based 
on  the  Bible  and  on  church  hymns;  the  music  often  consists  of  compara- 
tively short  sections  contrasting  in  tempo  and  time  signature  and  in  the 
number  of  voices  employed.  The  concertato  principle  rules  the  choruses, 
in  which  vocal  groups  of  varying  sizes  compete  with  instrumental  bodies. 
As  a  basis  for  the  arias,  ostinatos  are  frequently  employed,  repeating  a 

1  Nevertheless,  some  modern  conductors  feel  that  in  a  concert  performance  of  Bach's 
oratorios  the  harpsichord  should  alternate  with  the  organ  for  the  sake  of  variety. 

j.   Sebastian's  cantatas  (1704-1712)  209 

bass-phrase  (often  with  modulations  to  other  keys),  while  the  melodic  line 
changes.  Of  great  importance  in  these  early  cantatas  is  the  'arioso,'  a  kind 
of  recitative,  accompanied  by  instruments  which  interrupt  the  vocal  part 
with  independent  ritornelli.  The  freely  declamatory  recitative,  accom- 
panied by  a  figured  bass  only,  is  not  yet  to  be  found  in  the  early  forms  of 
Bach's  church  cantata.  Instrumental  introductions,  if  used  at  all,  are 
usually  short. 

Bach's  first  cantata,  Denn  du  wirst  meine  Seele  ('Suffer  not  Thou  my 
soul'  ;x  No.  15  in  BG  and  BJVV2),  written  at  the  age  of  19,  conforms  on 
the  whole  to  this  pattern,  although  the  work  was  obviously  revised  by  the 
composer  at  a  later  date.  The  foundation  of  its  text  is  provided  by  7  verses 
from  a  church  hymn.  There  is  ample  evidence  that  this  is  the  work  of  a 
very  young  composer,  for  the  declamation  is  frequently  awkward,  the 
expression  exaggerated  and  the  texture  predominantly  homophonic. 
Nevertheless,  even  at  this  very  early  stage,  genius  manifested  itself  in 
Bach's  masterly  combination  of  two  melodies  inspired  by  completely 
opposite  moods  (Ex.  29) ;  and  although  the  cantata  consists  of  about  a 

£  X.  39 

the     otk  .  ers       are        moan   .   _  _   _   ing  And      Veep.  -  -  -      -  ing  the 

FE^£rt  r  r    F(LLLr  F       r  PglJ  r     .  ^ 

I'm     Uugi  . .  .  ing    and        snout  ..........  ingt  And    laugh inj   -frith. 

Alio     ;JL¥  & 

dozen  sections,  its  rambling  construction  is  held  together  by  the  simple 
and  powerful  scheme  of  the  main  modulations:  C-a-C-G-C. 

The  number  of  cantatas  written  in  Miihlhausen  is  not  certain.  Among 
them  are:  No.  131,  Aus  der  Tiefe  ('From  the  deep,  Lord')  composed,  as 
the  autograph  indicates,  for  Bach's  friend,  the  Reverend  Eilmar  (cf.  p. 
140);  No.  71,  Gott  ist  mein  Konig  ('God  is  my  Sov'reign'),  performed  on 
February  4, 1708,  in  honour  of  the  newly  elected  city  council;  and  perhaps 
No.  106,  Gottes  Zeit  ('God's  own  time'),  which  may  have  been  written 
for  the  commemorative  service  held  for  Bach's  uncle,  Tobias  Lammerhirt, 
or  for  a  funeral  in  171 1.3 

These  cantatas  are  similar  in  construction.  Each  introduces  three 

1  The  English  tides  and  quotations  are  as  a  rule  given  in  the  translation  by 
Henry  S.  Drinker.  Cf.  'Text  of  the  Choral  Works  of  J.  S.  Bach,'  vols.  1-3. 

2  The  numbering  of  the  church  cantatas  used  in  BG  which  is  generally  adopted  in 
quoting  these  works  was  also  accepted  by  BWV.  Hence  each  cantata  number  is  also  the 
number  of  the  BWV. 

3  Jauernig,  Lc,  assumes  that  it  was  written  for  the  funeral  of  Bach's  predecessor  in 
Weimar,  Johann  Effler,  who  was  buried  on  April  7,  171 1.  Bach  had  worked  with  Effler 
when  he  first  came  to  Weimar  in  1703  (cf.  p.  130). 



choruses,  of  which  the  second  forms  the  centre  of  the  composition.  The 
text  of  Aus  der  Tiefe  is  based  on  Psalm  130  and  two  stanzas  from  a 
chorale.  Remarkable  in  this  early  composition  is  the  instrumental  character 
of  Bach's  vocal  style.  Coloraturas  to  be  sung  on  a  single  syllable  are 
frequently  interspersed  with  rests,  a  mannerism  by  no  means  unusual  in 
vocal  works  of  the  time,  but  as  a  rule  avoided  by  Bach  in  his  later  works. 
The  final  vocal  fugue  is  so  strongly  instrumental  in  its  design  that  it  even 
slipped  in  with  the  master's  organ  works  in  an  arrangement  by  one  of 
Bach's  pupils  (BWV  131a). 

Gott  ist  mein  Konig  is  the  only  cantata  by  Bach  to  be  printed  during 
his  lifetime  that  has  been  preserved;1  its  printing  was  due  not  so  much 
to  the  qualities  of  the  composition  as  to  the  significance  which  the  popu- 
lation of  Miihlhausen  attributed  to  the  political  event  it  celebrated.  In  this 
Motetto,  as  Bach  himself  calls  it,  the  technique  of  the  concertato  reaches 
a  climax.  One  brass  choir,  two  woodwind  groups,  and  one  string  choir 
compete  with  one  larger  and  one  smaller  vocal  group  in  a  manner  recalling 
the  splendour  of  Venetian  art  as  reflected  in  the  cantatas  of  Buxtehude. 
The  duet  No.  2,  'Full  fourscore  years  I  am,'  entrusts  an  ornamented  chorale 
tune  to  the  contralto,  while  the  tenor  voice  and  an  organ  obbligato  intro- 
duce counter  melodies.  The  result  is  a  vocal  form  surprisingly  similar  to 
an  organ  prelude.  Yet  the  final  chorus  of  this  cantata  shows  that  the  com- 
poser had  begun  to  free  himself  from  an  excessively  instrumental  concep- 
tion. The  concluding  fugue  employs  voices  and  orchestra  as  equal 
partners  and  does  not  require  them  to  double  each  other  in  the  usual  way; 
they  rather  take  turns  and  enhance  one  another's  lines. 

The  finest  and  most  important  among  Bach's  early  cantatas  is  Gottes 
Zeit,  known  as  the  Actus  tragicus.  Its  text,  taken  from  the  Bible  and  from 
church  hymns,  was  probably  assembled  by  Bach  himself,  possibly  with 
the  assistance  of  the  Reverend  Eilmar.  The  basic  idea  of  this  'German 
Requiem'2  is  that  Death's  curse  and  punishment  implied  in  the  Old 
Testament  was  transformed  through  the  intervention  of  Christ  into 
promise  and  bliss;  the  threat  of  the  old  covenant  was  changed  into  hope. 
The  cantata  begins  with  an  instrumental  introduction  for  flutes,  viole  da 
gamba,  and  continuo,  whose  content  Schweitzer  justly  describes  with  the 
words  of  the  Revelation:  'And  God  shall  wipe  away  all  tears  from  their 

1  Regarding  Bach's  cantata  printed  in  1709  cf.  p.  142. 

2  The  similarity  both  in  content  and  architecture  to  Brahms'  'German  Requiem'  is 
quite  striking  (cf.  Geiringer,  'Brahms,'  New  York,  1947,  p.  311).  Brahms  certainly  knew 
Bach's  cantata,  which  was  first  published  in  1830  and  was  a  favourite  of  his  friend,  Julius 

j.  Sebastian's  cantatas  (1712-1717)  211 

eyes;  and  there  shall  be  no  more  death,  neither  sorrow,  nor  crying, 
neither  shall  there  be  any  more  pain.'  The  first  chorus  starts  with  a 
surprisingly  folksong-like  melody  such  as  Bach  used  only  in  his  early 
works.  Magnificent  short  arias  by  tenor  and  bass  lead  to  the  heart  of  the 
drama,  the  great  middle  chorus.  In  a  ponderous  fugue,  symbolizing  the 
strictness  of  the  law,  the  3  lower  voices  present  the  words  of  Ecclesiastes 
'For  the  covenant  from  the  beginning  is,  Thou  shalt  die.'  In  dramatic 
contrast  the  light  voices  of  boy  sopranos  interrupt  with  the  words  'O 
come,  Lord  Jesus,  come.'  This  invocation  gains  in  intensity,  and  at  the 
end  the  dark  menace  is  completely  vanquished,  while  the  sopranos  sing 
the  last  notes  without  any  instrumental  accompaniment.  To  emphasize 
the  preponderance  of  the  Christian  spirit,  Bach  had  the  flutes  intone  at  the 
same  time  the  tune  of  the  chorale  'My  cause  is  God's,  and  I  am  still,  let 
Him  do  with  me  as  He  will.'  The  words  of  the  hymn  were  not  needed  to 
convey  this  message  to  a  congregation  familiar  with  Protestant  church 
songs.  The  musical  architecture  of  this  cantata  is  as  simple  and  powerful 
as  its  meaning.  Its  modulatory  basis  displays  a  chiastic  arrangement  (cf. 
p.  202)  EJ?-c-f-b>-Al?(f)-c-E!? 

With  their  vigorous  language,  their  highly  subjective  idiom,  and  their 
richly  flowing  imagination,  these  early  cantatas  present  a  picture  of  lofty 
achievement  rarely  equalled  by  so  young  a  composer. 

During  the  years  Bach  spent  in  Weimar  he  wrote  about  20  church 
cantatas,  most  of  them  basically  different  from  his  earlier  works  in  this 
field.  In  the  years  171 2-14  he  had  turned  towards  a  new  type  of  cantata 
the  texts  of  which  were  introduced  by  Pastor  Erdmann  Neumeister  (cf. 
p.  159).  The  main  feature  of  this  reformed  cantata  was,  as  the  librettist 
himself  expressed  it,  that  'it  looked  hardly  different  from  a  section  of  an 
opera.'  It  used  paraphrases  of  the  Bible  text  or  of  Protestant  hymns  (known 
as  'madrigalian'  texts)  for  secco  recitatives  and  da  capo  arias  which  formed 
the  core  of  the  cantatas.  The  former  arioso  was  but  rarely  used,  and  the 
choruses  and  hymns,  whose  place  was  now  mainly  at  the  beginning  and 
the  end  of  the  work,  were  greatly  reduced  in  number.  Even  cantatas  with- 
out any  chorus  were  not  infrequent.  Neumeister's  texts  were  similar  in 
content  to  his  sermons  which  they  preceded  in  the  service.  If  the  cantata 
was  in  two  parts,  the  first  was  performed  before  and  the  second  after  the 

Bach  wrote  five  of  his  Weimar  cantatas  (Nos.  18,  59,  61,  142,  160)  to 

212  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

texts  by  Neumeister,  but  he  preferred  librettos  by  Salomo  Franck, 
secretary  of  the  Protestant  Consistory  in  Weimar.  There  was  much  in 
these  texts  that  recommended  them  to  the  young  composer.  Franck  was 
more  conservative  than  Neumeister,  a  tendency  which  suited  Bach,  who 
was,  in  this  phase  of  transition,  by  no  means  willing  to  make  a  clean  break 
with  the  past,  and  rather  liked  to  intermingle  old  and  new  elements  in  his 
music.  What  attracted  him  particularly,  however,  was  the  deep  mystic 
feeling  prevailing  in  Franck's  texts  which  satisfied  a  craving  in  Bach's 
own  soul. 

The  Cantata  No.  21,  Ich  hatte  viel  Bekummernis  ('My  heart  and  soul 
were  sore  distressed'),  composed  in  17141  to  words  by  Salomo  Franck, 
belongs  to  the  comparatively  few  compositions  by  Bach  in  which  his  art 
meets  with  that  of  his  greatest  contemporary  in  the  realm  of  music.  It  has 
been  observed  that  certain  melodic  details  prove  that  the  Weimar  Concert- 
meister  knew  Handel's  opera  'Almira.'  Moreover,  the  final  chorus  'The 
Lamb  that  was  sacrificed,'  with  its  brilliant  trumpets,  exhibits  the  simple 
al-fresco  technique  of  Handel.  On  the  other  hand,  it  should  be  noted  that 
the  beginning  of  'Worthy  is  the  Lamb'  in  the  'Messiah'  reveals  a  certain 
kinship  with  this  chorus.  On  the  whole  the  cantata  shows  the  typical 
aspects  of  the  Weimar  works.  The  Sinfonia  to  its  first  part,  with  its 
holds  on  dissonant  chords  and  the  oboe's  outcry  in  the  penultimate 
measure,  is  among  the  most  passionate  instrumental  numbers  Bach  ever 
conceived,  and  it  creates  the  right  atmosphere  for  the  feeling  of  desolation 
which  predominates  at  the  start  of  the  opening  chorus.  The  three  ejacula- 
tions 'I,  I,  I'  at  the  beginning  of  this  number  have  often  been  commented 
on.2  The  repetition  of  the  first  word  at  the  start  of  a  composition  is 
typical  of  17th-century  music,  and  in  this  particular  case  Bach  may  have 
reverted  to  it  to  stress  the  work's  subjective  character.  Even  more  old- 
fashioned  is  the  next  chorus  with  its  quick  emotional  contrasts  and  the 
sudden  changes  between  solo  and  tutti,  fast  and  slow,  forte  and  piano.  On 
the  other  hand  the  solo  numbers  show  how  much  the  composer  had 
learned  from  contemporary  opera.  The  dialogue  between  the  soul  and 
Jesus,  for  instance,  is  a  love  duet  of  sensuous  beauty  which  might  well 
have  shocked  some  members  of  the  congregation.  Pieces  like  these  were 
responsible  for  the  clause  in  Bach's  Leipzig  contract  that  his  compositions 
'should  not  make  an  operatic  impression.' 

The  composer's  tendency  in  the  Weimar  years  towards  investigating 

1  Jauernig's  assumption,  I.e.,  that  the  work  was  written  and  performed  in  this  year 
to  celebrate  the  completion  of  the  new  organ  in  Weimar  is  convincing. 

2  Mattheson,  'Critica  Musica,'  II,  p.  368,  derides  it  in  a  rather  unfair  manner. 

j.  Sebastian's  cantatas  (1712-1717)  213 

new  artistic  possibilities  without  sacrificing  the  familiar  manifests  itself  in 
a  curious  experiment  he  made  in  his  Cantata  No.  61,  Nun  komm  der 
Heiden  Heiland  ('Come  Thou,  of  man  the  Saviour'),  composed  in  1714  to 
words  by  Neumeister.  The  first  chorus  is  a  chorale  fantasy  in  the  form  of  a 
French  overture.  The  movement  begins  with  the  traditional  slow  tempo 
and  dotted  rhythms  of  Lully's  introductions,  to  which  the  voices  intone 
the  first  two  lines  of  the  chorale  'Come  Thou,  of  man  the  Saviour,  Thou 
child  of  a  Virgin  born.'  The  time  signature  then  changes  and  Bach  pre- 
scribes Gai  as  tempo.  A  fast  and  merry  fugue  on  the  third  chorale  line 
'Mortals  over  all  the  earth'  now  forms  the  middle  section,  which  leads  to 
the  slow  conclusion  using  the  last  line  'Marvel  at  Thy  holy  birth.'  A 
magnificent  tour  de  force  which  the  mature  artist  never  attempted  to 

The  years  at  Weimar  witnessed  the  creation  of  some  of  Bach's  most 
subjective  works  in  the  field  of  church  music.  The  Arnstadt  and  Muhl- 
hausen  cantatas  had  already  revealed  a  strongly  individualistic  touch. 
Now  the  Jesusminne  (love  of  Jesus),  the  all-consuming  yearning  for 
release  from  earthly  fetters,  the  welcoming  of  death  as  the  gate  to  heavenly 
bliss,  assumed  proportions  unparalleled  in  the  music  of  the  time.  While 
the  new  form  of  the  cantata  had  been  devised  by  orthodox  ministers 
vigorously  opposed  to  the  ideas  of  Pietism,  a  mystic  undercurrent  in  many 
of  the  texts  chosen  by  the  composer,  tremendously  strengthened  by  Bach's 
intense  music,  brought  these  works  perilously  close  to  the  hated  doctrine. 
Yet  Bach  probably  never  admitted  that  to  himself,  for  he  was  wont  to 
fight  Pietism  for  its  inimical  attitude  towards  concerted  music,  and  to 
brush  aside  the  fact  that  his  own  leaning  towards  mysticism  was  not  so 
very  different  from  that  of  the  Pietists. 

A  characteristic  example  is  supplied  by  the  Easter  cantata  Der  Himmel 
lacht,  die  Erde  jubilieret1  (No.  31,  'The  heavens  laugh,  the  earth  exults  in 
gladness')  based  on  words  by  Franck.  The  cantata  begins  in  a  mood  of 
rejoicing  and  jubilation,  which  soon  turns  to  thoughts  of  death  and 
suffering.  For  Franck  and  Bach  the  idea  of  resurrection  was  inextricably 
bound  up  with  that  of  decay  and  annihilation,  and  they  saw  in  death  not 
a  menace,  but  a  goal  eagerly  to  be  sought  by  the  Christian.  Therefore  it  is 
not  the  pompous  introductory  Sonata  in  concerto  form,  nor  the  first 
jubilant  chorus  that  constitutes  the  climax  of  the  work;  it  is  the  last  aria 
'Hour  of  parting,  come  to  me.'  Here  a  soprano,  assisted  by  oboe  and  bass, 
performs  a  trio  in  dance  rhythm  of  irresistible  sweetness,  to  which  violins 
and  violas  add,  in  the  manner  of  the  Actus  tragicus,  the  immortal  chorale 

1  The  work  was  composed  in  171 5  but  revised  by  Bach  in  1731. 



tune  'When  finally  my  hour  comes.5  This  chorale  is  then  taken  up  by  the 
full  chorus  and  orchestra,  with  the  trumpets  reaching  the  highest  clarino 
registers,  thus  proclaiming  the  glory  and  bliss  of  death  leading  to  the 
soul's  reunion  with  Christ. 

Even  more  transcendental  is  the  character  of  No.  161,  Komm  du  susse 
Todesstunde  ('Come  sweet  death,  thou  blessed  healer')  composed  in  171 5 
to  words  by  Franck.  Here  the  death-chorale  'My  heart  is  ever  yearning 
for  blessed  death's  release'  (which  was  to  play  so  important  a  part  as 
Passion  chorale  in  the  St.  Matthew  Passion)  constitutes  the  framework  for 
the  whole  composition.  In  the  first  aria,  for  contralto,  in  which  the  dis- 
embodied tune  of  the  flutes  (recorders)  seems  to  extend  a  promise  of 
eternal  life,  the  organ  intones  this  chorale,  and  it  is  taken  up  again  at  the 
end  by  the  full  chorus  in  a  vision  of  trance-like  bliss.  Among  the  other 
numbers  is  a  recitative  accompanied  by  full  orchestra  which  provides  a 
deeply  stirring  illustration  of  sleep  and  awakening.  In  the  singer's  part  the 
yearning  for  deliverance  from  earthly  fetters  reaches  its  ecstatic  climax, 
while  the  flutes,  with  quickly  repeated  high  notes,  the  strings  with  sombre 
pillicati,  and  the  basses  with  majestic  octave  leaps,  sound  a  weird  chorus 
of  tolling  death  bells  (Ex.  30). 


imimim  jot.  JTf^  jot.  jot 


The  last  composition  in  this  period  of  transition  is  in  all  likelihood 
the  powerful  cantata  No.  4,  Christ  lag  in  Todesbanden  ('Christ  lay  by 
death  enshrouded').  It  was  probably  written  in  Weimar,  although  Bach 
revised  it  for  a  Leipzig  performance  in  1724.  Rarely  did  he  compose  a 
work  looking  so  decidedly  into  the  past  and  at  the  same  time  showing 
features  of  so  progressive  a  nature.  Like  the  cantatas  of  the  first  period,  it 
has  no  18th-century  elements  in  the  text,  but  simply  uses  Luther's  power- 
ful hymn  as  a  libretto.  Nevertheless  distinctly  separated  choruses,  arias, 
and  duets  are  used  in  a  manner  revealing  the  influence  of  the  reforms 
initiated  by  Neumeister  and  Franck.  The  music  is  based  on  a  12th-century 
melody,  and  a  cantata  by  Kuhnau  on  the  same  tune  might  be  considered 

j.   Sebastian's  cantatas  (1723-1745)  215 

as  its  godfather.  The  harsh  modal  harmonies  and  the  doubled  middle  parts 
of  the  violas  contribute  to  the  very  archaic  character  of  the  composition, 
which  appears  like  a  series  of  vocal  interpretations  of  organ  chorales  in  the 
manner  of  Bohm  and  Pachelbel.  But  the  dominating  position  which  the 
hymn  assumes  throughout  the  work  also  points  to  the  chorale  cantatas 
written  by  Bach  in  the  later  Leipzig  years.  Christ  lag  in  Todesbanden  con- 
sists of  seven  vocal  movements,  each  presenting  a  variation  on  the  same 
hymn  tune  and  using  one  stanza  of  Luther's  chorale  as  a  text.  The  form 
is  compact 

chorus         duet         aria         chorus         aria         duet         chorus; 
123456  7 

even  the  introductory  instrumental  Sinfonid  in  the  style  of  Buxtehude 
makes  use  of  the  basic  tune.  The  combination  of  contrapuntal  art  with 
expressive  power  and  Baroque  symbolism  is  overwhelming.  Only  one 
detail  can  be  mentioned  here,  a  detail  that  is  usually  lost  to  English 
audiences  owing  to  a  free  translation.  Luther's  stark  16th-century  lan- 
guage proclaims  that  after  the  fight  between  life  and  death  'one  death 
devoured  the  other.'  Bach  symbolizes  it  by  a  kind  of  canon  in  which  the 
parts  seem  to  be  entangled  in  a  mortal  struggle  until  one  after  the  other 

Both  in  quantity  and  in  artistic  significance  the  church  cantatas 
written  in  Leipzig  form  an  entity  unique  in  the  history  of  music.  Bach 
aims  at  a  fusion  and  complete  unification  of  the  most  diversified  aspects  of 
his  art.  The  wide  range  of  the  texts  staggers  the  imagination;  it  encom- 
passes all  transitions  from  the  strictest  Lutheran  orthodoxy  to  the  most 
tender  and  emotional  pietism,  from  the  plastic  diction  of  the  Reformation 
period  to  the  effeminate  mannerisms  of  the  18th  century.  In  the  music, 
too,  old  and  new  trends  are  brought  into  a  perfect  integration.  The  inten- 
sity of  the  polyphonic  thinking  is  now  completely  balanced  by  the  abun- 
dance of  harmonic  inspiration.  The  cumulative  effect  of  Bach's  technical 
brilliance,  graphic  pictorialism,  profound  symbolism,  and  emotional 
intensity  is  overwhelming. 

In  most  cases  we  do  not  know  who  were  the  authors  of  Bach's  texts. 
It  seems  by  no  means  impossible  that  he  himself  wrote  some  of  them.  If 
it  was  a  question  of  changing  the  words  of  a  previously  written  com- 
position or  quickly  making  up  a  libretto  for  some  special  occasion,  Bach 

2l6  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

relied  on  the  services  of  his  friend,  Friedrich  Henrici  (1700-64),  better 
known  under  his  pen-name,  Picander.  It  was  this  writer  who  was 
probably  responsible  for  the  paraphrasing  of  many  of  the  hymn  texts 
used  in  Bach's  chorale  cantatas  of  the  later  years.  In  addition,  such 
widely  contrasting  texts  as  the  librettos  to  the  Coffee  Cantata  and  the 
St.  Matthew  Passion  were  produced  by  this  able  and  musically  gifted 

To  the  cantatas  whose  librettists  are  unknown  belongs  the  magnificent 
No.  46,  Schauet  dock  und  sehet  ('Look  ye  then  and  see'),  written  in  the 
first  Leipzig  years  for  the  tenth  Sunday  after  Trinity.  The  work  deals  with 
a  favourite  religious  idea  of  the  Baroque  era;  it  first  threatens  the  sinner, 
and  subsequently  comforts  him  with  promises  of  the  Lord's  forgiveness. 
The  powerful  initial  chorus  uses  flutes,  oboi  da  caccia  (English  horns), 
trumpet,  and  strings.  The  emotional  content  of  its  slow  first  section  can 
best  be  deduced  from  the  fact  that  Bach  used  it  later  for  the  Qui  tollis  of 
his  B  minor  Mass.  Perfect  declamation  and  poignant  feeling  are  combined 
with  a  polyphonic  texture  of  supreme  artistry.  The  intensity  of  grief  is 
expressed  both  with  the  help  of  harsh  dissonances  and  with  mighty 
strettos.  The  recitative  which  follows  recalls  Neumeister's  plea  that  a 
cantata  ought  to  resemble  a  sermon,  for  here  a  fanatic  preacher  seems  to 
threaten  the  cowed  congregation.  The  sinister  mood  reaches  a  climax  in 
the  ensuing  aria.  Its  violent  trembling  of  the  strings  and  the  weird 
trumpet-fanfares  draw  a  strikingly  realistic  picture  of  the  annihilating 
thunderstorm  in  which  the  last  judgment  takes  place  and  the  sinner  must 
face  'God's  wrath  unceasing.'  And  then,  with  typically  Baroque  sudden- 
ness, the  picture  changes;  the  threat  of  damnation  is  replaced  by  the 
promise  of  salvation.  A  contralto  solo  combined  with  two  flutes  and 
two  oboi  da  caccia  playing  in  unison  creates  an  atmosphere  of  celestial 
sweetness.  To  avoid  all  earthly  heaviness  Bach  even  does  away  with  the 
traditional  basso  continuo.  The  concluding  chorale,  with  an  instrumenta- 
tion similar  to  that  of  the  first  chorus,  seems  to  condense  the  significance 
of  the  whole  work:  'Through  Jesus'  intercession,  forgive  Thou  our  trans- 

The  delightful  cantata,  No.  65,  Sie  werden  aus  Saba  alle  kommen 
('From  Sheba  shall  many  men  be  coming')  was  written  for  the  Epiphany 
of  1724  or  1725  to  words  which  Bach  himself  may  have  compiled.  The 
famous  first  chorus  is  a  lofty  piece  of  concerted  music  in  which  four 
groups  of  instruments — horns,  flutes,  oboi  da  caccia,  and  strings — com- 
pete with  human  voices  to  create  a  richly  glowing  picture  of  the  stately 
procession  leading  camels  and  dromedaries  laden  with  gold  and  incense 

j.  Sebastian's  cantatas  (1723-1745)  217 

as  offerings  to  the  Lord.  Inexhaustible  inspiration,  unerring  judgment  in 
the  combination  of  musical  colours,  and  a  highly  emphatic  declamation 
join  forces  to  give  the  most  powerful  utterance  to  the  prophecy  of 

The  tremendous  range  of  Bach's  descriptive  power  can  be  shown  by 
a  third  cantata  from  this  period,  No.  19,  Es  erhub  sick  ein  Streit  ('See  how 
fiercely  they  fight'),  written  for  St.  Michael's  Day,  1726.  Again  the  com- 
poser himself  may  have  written  the  words,  using  as  his  model  an  earlier 
libretto  by  Picander.  The  text  based  on  Revelation  describes  the  war  in 
Heaven,  with  Michael  and  his  angels  battling  'the  great  dragon  called 
Satan';  a  subject  that  had  been  set  to  music  in  a  masterly  composition  by 
Johann  Christoph  Bach  (cf.  p.  57),  which  was  well  known  to  Sebastian. 
Without  any  introduction  the  basses  intone  the  powerful  melody  of  the 
battle  {Ex.  31)  which  works  its  way  upward  through  the  voices.  Presently 


See  how  fiercely  ihej  /JjM 

trumpets  and  timpani  set  in,  leading  the  hearer  right  into  the  heart  of  the 
furious  fight.  The  combat  reaches  its  climax  at  the  beginning  of  the 
passionate  middle  part,  when  the  powers  of  darkness  make  a  supreme 
effort  to  conquer  Heaven.  But  Michael  foils  the  foe;  victory  is  won,  and 
the  unison  of  3  trumpets  confirms  the  doom  of  the  horrible  dragon.  A  com- 
poser who  had  a  dramatic  effect  primarily  in  mind  would  have  ended  his 
movement  here,  and  this  is  what  Johann  Christoph  Bach  did.  To  Sebas- 
tian, however,  it  seems  essential  to  round  off  the  chorus,  and  give  it  a 
perfect  musical  form.  He  therefore  retraces  his  steps  and  starts  once  more: 
'See  how  fiercely  they  fight.'  Then  he  relinquishes  the  description  from 
Revelation  (to  which  his  kinsman  had  adhered  throughout  his  work,  in 
the  manner  of  the  older  cantatas)  and  proceeds  to  describe  in  a  partly 
lyric,  partly  epic  manner  the  results  of  the  victory.  There  is  a  tender  da 
capo  aria  for  the  soprano  with  two  oboi  d'amore  (oboes  tuned  a  minor 
third  lower  and  equipped  with  pear-shaped  bells)  and  a  recitativo  accom- 
pagnato  referring  to  the  loving  kindness  of  the  Saviour,  to  which  the  full 
string  body  in  a  manner  later  used  in  the  St.  Matthew  Passion  contri- 
butes a  kind  of  halo.  In  a  moving  tenor  aria  the  soul  prays  'Bide  ye  angels, 
bide  with  me,'  and  to  enhance  the  power  of  the  supplication,  the  trumpet 
intones  'Lord,  let  Thy  blessed  angels  come'  from  the  hymn  Her^lich  lieb 

2l8  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

(1  love  Thee,  Lord,  with  all  my  heart').  In  the  last  chorale  the  angels  are 
implored  to  assist  mankind  in  the  hour  of  final  need.  The  orchestration 
here  is  the  same  as  in  the  first  movement,  thus  implying  that  Michael's 
victory  prepared  the  way  for  the  soul's  eternal  triumph. 

It  should  be  mentioned  that  the  first  page  of  the  autograph  bears  the 
following  title  in  Bach's  hand:  /.  /.  Festo  Michaelis  Concerto  a  14.  The 
first  two  letters  stand  for  Jesu  Juva  (Jesus  help),  an  abbreviation  often 
employed  by  the  composer  at  the  beginning  of  his  works.  The  14  voices 
are  3  trumpets,  3  oboes,  3  stringed  parts,  the  vocal  quartet,  and  continuo 
(as  usual,  the  composer  does  not  count  the  timpani).  The  author's  name  is 
not  on  the  manuscript,  although  there  would  have  been  room  enough  to 
insert  it,  and  as  a  rule  Bach  does  write  it  on  his  scores.  In  explaining  this 
Friedrich  Smend1  alleges  that  for  those  initiated  in  figure  symbolism  the 
number  14  stood  for  Bach  (cf.  p.  203),  and  that  the  composer  considered 
it  unnecessary  to  write  his  name  a  second  time  in  letters  (cf.  111.  XIII). 

In  the  years  following  1730  Bach  gradually  widens  the  scope  of  his 
''cantatas,  taking  a  strong  interest  in  both  the  solo  and  the  chorale  cantata. 
One  of  the  most  beautiful  of  his  compositions  for  a  single  voice,  in  which 
the  vocal  virtuosity  is  markedly  increased,  is  No.  56,  Ich  will  den  Kreu^stab 
gerne  tragen  ('I  will  my  cross-staff  gladly  carry'),  a  work  of  intimate 
chamber  character,  originally  written  for  Anna  Magdalena's  soprano, 
later,  however,  transcribed  for  contralto,  and  eventually  for  bass.  In  its 
final  form  (completed  probably  in  173 1  or  1732)  the  heartfelt  work  has 
delighted  not  only  church  congregations,  but  innumerable  concert 
audiences.  The  cantata  has  no  introduction  and  starts  with  a  broadly  con- 
ceived da  capo  aria.  In  its  middle  part  the  solo  voice  suddenly  sings  in 
triplets,  while  the  instruments  keep  up  the  former  movement  in  eighth 
notes.  The  resulting  combination  of  different  rhythms  expresses  the 
passionate  yearning  in  the  words  'There  will  I  entomb  all  my  sorrows  and 
sighs,  my  Saviour  will  wipe  all  the  tears  from  my  eyes.'  In  the  following 
beautiful  arioso,  inspired  by  the  words  'My  journey  through  the  world  is 
like  a  ship  at  sea,'  Bach  depicts  the  movement  of  the  waves  through  a 
rocking  motive  given  out  by  the  'cello.  This  accompaniment  is  suddenly 
discontinued  when  the  weary  traveller  reaches  heaven  and  leaves  the  ship. 
Of  equal  beauty  is  a  recitative  near  the  end  of  the  cantata  expressing  the 
soul's  readiness  to  receive  its  eternal  reward  from  the  hands  of  the  Lord. 
Here  the  composer  makes  use  of  the  sustained  notes  of  the  strings  which 
he  also  uses  in  the  recitatives  of  the  St.  Matthew  Passion  to  symbolize 
the  appearance  of  Christ.  In  its  second  half  the  recitative  very  poetically 

1  'Bachs  Kirchenkantaten,'  III/41. 

j.  Sebastian's  cantatas  (1723-1745)  219 

turns  into  a  quotation  of  the  middle  section  of  the  first  aria,  thus  creat- 
ing a  firm  link  between  the  initial  and  concluding  solo  numbers  of  the 
cantata.  Even  in  a  work  so  little  suited  to  the  inclusion  of  a  hymn,  Bach 
is  loath  to  omit  it,  and  he  finishes  his  cantata  with  a  four-part  chorale, 
probably  sung  by  the  congregation. 

For  his  larger  church  compositions  Bach  showed  an  increasing  interest 
in  the  chorale  cantata  in  which  a  hymn  constitutes  the  basis  of  both  text 
and  music.  In  its  pure  form  the  chorale  cantata  could  be  found  in  Christ 
lag  in  Todesbanden.  Bach  now  prefers  the  freer  form  in  which  only  the 
first  and  last  stanzas  of  the  hymn  text  are  preserved  in  their  original  version, 
while  the  stanzas  in  between  are  transformed  and  paraphrased  according 
to  18th-century  taste  into  texts  suitable  for  recitatives,  arias  and  duets. 
Even  complete  movements  that  are  only  indirectly  connected  with  the 
basic  poem  are  occasionally  inserted.  For  the  first  chorus  a  polyphonic 
treatment  of  the  hymn  tune  is  generally  used,  for  the  last  a  simple  four- 
part  harmonization.  The  variety  of  form  in  these  chorale  cantatas,  which 
Bach  seems  to  have  conceived  in  connection  with  Picander,  is  truly 
staggering.  Hymn  tunes  are  woven  into  the  fabric  of  instrumental  intro- 
ductions, and  are  used  in  big  chorale  fantasias,  chorale  passacaglias,  and 
in  movements  of  a  motet-like  character.  Bach  employs  them  in  recitatives, 
arias  and  duets,  and  he  presents  them  in  permanently  renewed  harmonic 
splendour  at  the  end  of  the  cantatas.  More  and  more  the  chorale  becomes 
the  life-blood  of  the  composer's  sacred  music.1 

The  cantata  No.  80,  Eiri  feste  Burg  ('A  mighty  fortress'),  was  prob- 
ably first  performed  in  1730  at  the  Reformation  Festival.  It  consists  of  six 
movements  written  as  early  as  1716  on  a  libretto  by  Franck,  based  on 
Luther's  famous  hymn  but  later  completely  revised,  and  two  movements 
composed  for  the  ultimate  version.  A  second  revision  seems  to  have  been 
made  by  Friedemann  Bach,  who  inserted  trumpets  and  kettle-drums  into 
the  choruses  Nos.  1  and  5;  an  addition  which  so  greatly  enhances  the  effect 
that  it  has  been  generally  adopted.  The  first  chorus  is  a  magnificent 
chorale  fugue  framed  by  a  canon  presenting  the  hymn  tune  in  long  notes 
in  the  highest  and  lowest  instrumental  parts.  The  ultimate  degree  of 
contrapuntal  artistry  is  used  here  to  symbolize  the  rule  of  the  divine  law 

1  Bach  seems  to  have  written  many  chorale  harmonizations  not  contained  in  his 
cantatas.  Between  1784-7  Philipp  Emanuel  Bach  and  J.  Ph.  Kirnberger  published  4  volumes 
of  'Joh.  Seb.  Bachs  vierstimmige  Choralgesange'  comprising  371  numbers,  of  which  162  can 
be  traced  back  to  cantatas,  oratorios,  Passions,  etc.  Of  the  remaining  pieces  (BJVV  253- 
438)  some  may  have  been  taken  from  choral  works  lost  to-day.  Even  at  a  time  when  the 
work  of  Sebastian  Bach  was  very  little  known,  these  exquisite  arrangements  were  gready 



throughout  the  Universe.  Completely  different  is  the  second  chorus  in 
which  all  4  voices  for  once  present  the  hymn  tune  in  powerful  unison. 
Around  them  roars  the  wildly  turbulent  orchestra,  the  'fiends  ready  to 
devour'  of  the  hymn.  Whoever  hears  this  grandiose  piece  will  realize  that 
for  the  composer  just  as  for  Luther,  the  author  of  the  hymn  text,  the  devil 
was  somebody  quite  real. 

Very  different  is  the  mood  in  No.  140,  the  chorale  cantata  Wachet  auf 
('Sleepers,  wake')  probably  written  in  173 1.1  Nicolai's  beautiful  hymn  on 
which  it  is  based  deals  with  the  parable  of  the  wise  and  foolish  virgins, 
and  turns  later  to  a  description  of  heavenly  Zion.  In  the  first  movement 
the  chorale  melody  is  presented  in  long  notes  by  the  soprano,  under 
which  the  lower  voices  weave  a  vivid  contrapuntal  texture  inspired  by  the 
words  rather  than  by  the  melody  of  the  church  song.  The  orchestra  adds 
a  completely  independent  accompaniment  picturing  the  approach  of  the 
heavenly  bridegroom  (a)  and  the  eager  anticipation  of  the  maidens  (b) 
(Ex.  32).  Out  of  these  various  strata  grows  a  sound  picture  of  over- 

Ix.  32 

A        *■>                                                                                   V 




s.  _7T~" 


whelming  sensuous  beauty.  In  the  second  chorale  fantasia  the  hymn  tune 
intoned  by  the  tenors  is  joined  by  a  completely  different  violin  melody  of 
a  caressing  sweetness  rarely  to  be  found  in  Bach's  cantatas;  this  depicts  the 
graceful  procession  of  the  maidens  going  out  to  meet  the  heavenly  bride- 
groom (cf.  p.  258).  In  the  two  duets  following  this  number  the  objective 
chorale  is  silent,  and  the  pledges  which  Christ  and  the  soul  exchange 
sound  not  very  different  from  those  of  earthly  lovers.  The  second  duet  in 
particular,  with  its  similarity  of  motives  in  both  voices,  points  far  into  the 
future,  to  the  duets  between  husband  and  wife  in  Haydn's  'Creation'  and 
Beethoven's  'Fidelio.' 

During  his  final  period  of  cantata  production — the  last  work  that  can 
be  dated  with  certainty  is  No.  116,  Du  Friedefurst  ('Thou,  Prince  of 
Peace'),  performed  November  22,  1745 — Bach  cultivated  the  chorale 
cantata  in  its  strict  form,  based  in  all  its  parts  on  a  specific  well-known 
Protestant  hymn  text  and  omitting  any  numbers  not  dependent  on  this 
church  song.  Good  examples  of  the  style  of  these  last  25  odd  cantatas  are 
furnished  by  Nos.  92  and  78,  both  composed  around  1740. 

1  The  date  1742,  suggested  by  Rust  for  this  cantata,  seems  less  likely. 

j.  Sebastian's  cantatas  (1723-1745)  221 

Cantata  No.  92,  Ich  hab  in  Gottes  Heri  und  Sinn  ('To  God  I  give  my 
heart  and  soul'),  consists  of  9  numbers,  3  of  which  use  the  words  of  Paul 
Gerhardt's  poem  unchanged,  while  in  the  remaining  sections  the  hymn 
text  is  either  interspersed  with  words  by  an  unknown  18th-century  poet 
or  altogether  paraphrased.  Bach  uses  the  old  French  tune  to  which  Ger- 
hardt's poem  is  usually  sung  in  more  than  half  the  numbers  of  the  cantata, 
whenever  he  employs  the  original  text.1  The  introductory  chorus  is  a 
powerful  chorale  fantasia  with  the  melody  in  the  soprano,  while  the  lower 
voices  and  the  orchestra  contribute  to  the  interpretation.  In  No.  2, 
Recitativo  e  Corale,  we  find  most  striking  contrasts  between  the  chorale 
lines,  accompanied  by  a  kind  of  ostinato  bass,  and  the  very  dramatic 
recitatives  inserted  in  between.  The  rapid  succession  of  short  and  basically 
different  sections,  declamation  alternating  with  singing,  results  in  a 
strangely  disturbing  piece,  typically  Baroque  in  its  expression.  The 
following  aria  for  tenor,  which  describes  the  breaking  down  and  the  de- 
struction of  everything  not  sustained  by  God,  brings  the  wild  excitement 
to  a  climax.  Both  the  singer  (whose  part  presents  almost  insurmountable 
difficulties)  and  the  orchestra  create  a  mood  of  fierce  exultation.  No.  4,  in 
which  chorale  text  and  melody  are  presented  by  the  contralto,  is  again 
more  objective  in  character.  It  resembles  in  its  construction  the  tenor  aria 
of  the  cantata  Wachet  auf.  Here  Bach  inserts  the  individual  lines  of  the 
hymn  tune  into  a  trio  for  two  oboi  d'amore  and  continuo,  a  beautiful 
musical  composition  complete  in  itself.  The  last  aria  in  3/8  for  soprano, 
with  its  oboe  d'amore  solo  and  strings  pizzicati  sounding  almost  like  a 
serenade,  presents  a  picture  of  the  paradisian  joy  experienced  by  a  soul  rest- 
ing in  Jesus.  In  the  narrow  confines  of  a  cantata  forming  but  one  section 
of  the  service,  Bach  has  been  able  to  conjure  up  the  whole  wide  world  of 
Baroque  Protestantism.  His  congregation  had  to  pass  through  the  horrors 
of  the  powers  of  darkness  before  the  glory  of  salvation  rose  dazzlingly 
before  them. 

In  cantata  No.  78,  Jesu,  der  du  meine  Seek  ('Jesus,  by  Thy  Cross  and 
Passion'),  the  first  movement  is  one  of  the  loftiest  exhibitions  of  contra- 
puntal art,  outstanding  even  among  Bach's  works.  It  is  a  passacaglia  on 

1  The  relation  of  Bach's  composition  to  the  poem  by  Paul  Gerhardt  is  shown  in  the 
following  table,  in  which  [  ]  surrounding  a  figure  indicate  that  the  respective  stanza  is 
presented  with  18th-century  additions,  while  (  )  indicate  that  it  is  used  as  the  basis  of  a 

B:       Chorale       Chor.  &       Aria     Chor.  &    Recit.        Aria     Chor.  &       Aria       Chorale 
Fantasia        Recit.  Aria  Recit.  harmon. 

G:  I  [II]       (III-IV)      V     (VI-VIII)     (IX)         [X]  (XI)        XII 



a  chromatically  descending  bass  {Ex.  33)  such  as  Baroque  masters  liked 
to  use  in  their  'Lamentos,'  and  such  as  Sebastian  himself  employed  in  the 


Crucifixus  of  his  great  Mass.  In  the  course  of  the  27  variations,  this  woeful 
figure  is  raised  to  the  upper  voices,  and  it  appears  in  transposition  and  in 
contrary  motion.  Into  this  highly  artificial  shell  Bach  builds  without  any 
apparent  effort  a  complete  chorale  fantasia.  The  result  is  an  awe-inspiring 
description  of  the  Lord's  suffering.  After  this  overwhelming  chorus, 
scored  for  a  large  orchestra,  there  follows  a  delicate  duet  for  soprano  and 
contralto  ('We  hasten  with  feeble  yet  diligent  footsteps')  accompanied 
only  by  'cello,  organ,  and  a  stringed  bass  'staccato  e  pizzicato.'  In  its 
ingratiating  melody,  strong  dance  rhythm  with  accent  on  first  and  third 
beats,  uncomplicated  harmonies  and  frequent  progressions  in  parallel 
thirds  and  sixths  {Ex.  34)  we  discover  a  Bach  with  leanings  towards  folk- 


We  hast • en  yfiih 

ed  .  .  gtr  yei  /aJ  -  .   taring    /oof  .  .steps,  o     Je  .  su,    o        Ms.,  sier,  for  help     un  .io     Thee 

«4  .    .   ger  yel  fal .  .  iering    faoi..stepsto    Je  .  sut  o        Ma  -  sterl  for  help     un  -to     Thee 

song-like  simplicity.1  While  the  ageing  master  was  mainly  concerned 
with  revealing  the  glory  of  a  vanishing  age  to  a  younger  generation,  he 
could,  if  he  chose  to  do  so,  always  beat  them  with  their  own  weapons.  A 
joyful  tenor  aria  and  a  dramatic  bass  aria  are  each  preceded  by  recitatives 
which  introduce  not  only  literal  quotations  from  the  text  of  the  hymn, 
but  also  allusions  to  its  melodic  material.  Particularly  moving  is  the  second 
one  accompanied  by  strings.  After  sudden  and  repeated  changes,  a  fervent 
arioso  ensues  for  which  Bach  even  prescribes  'con  ardore.'  The  final 
chorale  expresses  the  confidence  of  the  faithful  that  they  will  be  united 
with  Jesus  all  through  'sweet  eternity.'  Bach  gives  the  whole  cantata  a 
kind  of  rondo-like  character  by  using  the  hymn  tune  not  only  in  the  first 

1  It  is  curious  to  note  that  the  piece  bears  a  certain  resemblance  to  the  delightful 
duet  'Hark,  hark'  in  Purcell's  Masque  to  'Timon  of  Athens.'  The  possibility  that  Bach 
knew  the  score  cannot  be  completely  discarded. 

j.   Sebastian's  motets  223 

and  seventh  movements,  but  also,  to  a  lesser  extent,  in  Nos.  3  and  5.  A 
relationship  to  the  Vivaldi  concerto  form,  which  was  of  so  basic  an  im- 
portance for  Bach,  is  not  difficult  to  detect. 

Bach  composed  no  Latin  Motets,  since  he  was  not  obliged  to  by  his 
duties  and  he  considered  the  genre  old-fashioned.  He  did,  however,  write 
six  German  motets  for  special  occasions.  One  of  them,  Lobet  den  Herrn 
('Praise  ye  the  Lord';  BWV  230),  was  probably  completed  before  he 
came  to  Leipzig.  Four  motets  for  funeral  services,  Jesu,  meine  Freude 
('Jesus,  dearest  Master';  BWV  227,  comp.  1723);  Fiirchte  dich  nicht  ('Be 
not  dismayed';  BWV  228,  comp.  probably  1726);  Der  Geist  hilft  unsrer 
Schwachheit  auf  ('The  Spirit  also  helpeth  us';  BWV  226;  comp.  1729); 
and  Komm,  Jesu,  komm  ('Come,  Jesus,  come';  BWV  229),  originated  in 
the  first  half  of  his  service  as  Thomas  Cantor,  while  the  sixth,  Singet  dem 
Herrn  ('Sing  to  the  Lord';  BWV  225),  was  composed  for  New  Year 
1746,  to  celebrate  the  end  of  the  second  Silesian  war. 

In  these  motets  Bach  uses  the  same  kind  of  texts  as  in  his  early 
cantatas.  The  sources  of  his  words  are  chorales  and  the  Bible.  His 
familiarity  with  the  material,  unusual  even  in  that  time  of  most 
thorough  Bible-knowledge,  helped  him  to  compile  deeply  stirring  and 
poetical  texts. 

The  retrospective  character  of  the  motet  form  makes  it  understandable 
why  Bach  established  in  these  works  a  certain  connection  with  the  produc- 
tions of  older  members  of  the  family.  Johann  Christoph  Bach,  too,  wrote 
a  motet  Fiirchte  dich  nicht,  in  which  Bible  words  are  combined  with  a 
chorale  text,  and  Dietrich  Buxtehude  composed  a  cantata  Jesu,  meine 
Freude,  which  is  in  E  minor  like  Sebastian's  work  of  the  same  title.  Never- 
theless, Sebastian's  main  sources  for  these  compositions  were  not  the 
older  German  motets,  but  his  own  cantatas.  Both  the  melodic  and  the 
harmonic  treatment  of  the  voices,  the  rich  polyphonic  texture,  and,  most 
of  all,  the  basic  importance  of  the  chorale  melodies,  are  the  same  as  in  the 
cantatas.  It  is  true  that  there  are  no  arias,  duets  or  similar  forms  in  the 
motets  and  they  do  not  contain  any  independent  instrumental  parts. 
Nevertheless  they  were  not  performed  by  voices  only.  For  the  motet  Der 
Geist  hilft  unsrer  Schwachheit  auf,  a  full  autograph  set  of  orchestral  parts 
doubling  the  voices,  as  well  as  a  figured  bass,  has  been  preserved.  For 
Lobet  den  Herrn,  too,  Bach's  continuo  part  exists.  Real  a  capella  music 
was  at  that  time  not  heard  in  Germany,  and  it  seems  certain  that  an  organ 



or  harpsichord  (preferably  the  latter)  was  used  for  every  performance  of 
these  motets. 

Four  of  them  {BWV  225-26,  228-29)  are  written  for  8-part  double 
chorus.  Unlike  former  composers,  Bach  does  not  use  a  higher  and  a  lower 
chorus,  but  prescribes  two  evenly  balanced  mixed  vocal  groups.  At  the 
performances  he  usually  had  only  one  singer  for  each  voice. 

In  Filrchte  dick  nicht  Bach  sets  to  music  2  verses  from  Isaiah.  The  brisk 
alternation  of  the  two  choirs  ends  at  the  words  'I  am  He  who  has  redeemed 
thee,'  and  a  fugue  by  the  3  lower  voices  ensues,  in  which  the  composer 
symbolizes  Jesus'  sacrifice  with  the  help  of  a  chromatically  descending 
theme  (Ex.  35)  while  the  sopranos  intone  the  chorale  'Lord,  my  Shepherd, 

■Ex  35 


Fount  of  Gladness.'  The  result  is  a  work  that  despite  its  more  traditional 
form  surpassed  in  emotional  intensity  anything  yet  written  in  this  field. 

The  5 -part  motet  Jesu,  meine  Freude  resembles  in  its  construction  the 
earlier  forms  of  Bach's  chorale  cantatas.  In  its  1 1  numbers,  6  stanzas  from 
Johann  Franck's  hymn  alternate  with  5  verses  from  the  8th  chapter  of  the 
Epistle  to  the  Romans.  The  first  and  sixth  stanzas  are  presented  in  almost 
identical  four-part  harmonizations,  while  each  of  the  stanzas  in  between 
is  treated  in  a  different  manner:  as  a  five-part  harmonization,  as  a  kind  of 
fantasia,  or,  in  stanza  3,  as  a  strange  mixture  of  homophonic  and  poly- 
phonic elements  only  loosely  connected  with  the  main  tune.  Interpreta- 
tion and  exegesis  are  offered  after  each  verse  by  the  appropriate  quotation 
from  the  Bible.  To  achieve  formal  symmetry,  Bach  uses  practically  the 
same  music  for  the  first  and  fifth  insertion,  while  both  the  second  and  the 
fourth  are  the  only  pieces  in  the  motet  written  for  3  parts.  Once  more 
the  two  gigantic  pillars  of  Protestantism,  gospel  and  church  song,  are 
joined,  through  the  power  of  Bach's  spirit,  in  an  edifice  of  rock-like 

This  work,  like  all  the  other  motets,  can  only  be  mastered  by  per- 
formers of  the  highest  musicianship  endowed  with  a  tremendous  voice 
range  and  a  capacity  for  interpreting  the  countless  shades  of  Bach's  emo- 
tional palette.  Such  difficulties  have  not  discouraged  performers;  in  fact, 
the  motets  were  almost  the  only  vocal  compositions  by  Bach  never  wholly 
forgotten.  Mozart  heard  Singe t  dem  Herrn  in  1789  in  Leipzig,  and  'his 
whole  soul  seemed  to  be  in  his  ears'  (Rochlitz).  As  early  as  1803  five  of 


these  works  were  made  available  in  a  printed  edition.1  This  was  not  due 
only  to  the  superb  musical  qualities  of  the  motets;  the  deep  abiding  faith 
radiating  from  them  brought  to  later  generations  a  spiritual  sustenance 
badly  needed  in  periods  of  religious  decline. 

Among  Bach's  vocal  compositions  the  Secular  Cantatas  play  an  im- 
portant part.  The  composer  wrote  them  for  special  occasions,  such  as 
weddings,  birthdays,  and  name-days  of  members  of  the  ruling  house,  or 
for  events  at  the  Leipzig  University.  Many  of  them  were  first  played  by 
his  Collegium  Musicum  and  show  clearly  in  their  instrumentation  whether 
they  were  meant  for  winter  performances  at  the  coffee  house,  or  for  an 
open-air  concert  in  summer.  The  dramatic  power  of  Bach's  art,  an  earthy 
sense  of  humour,  and  love  of  nature  are  strongly  in  evidence  in  the 
secular  cantatas. 

The  exact  number  of  these  compositions  is  not  known.  The  thrifty 
composer  did  not  cherish  the  idea  of  having  some  of  his  finest  music 
performed  once  only.  He  used  it  over  and  over  again,  sometimes  for  other 
secular  compositions,  but  frequently  also  for  sacred  works.  The  Christ- 
mas Oratorio,  for  instance,  to  mention  only  a  single  example,  contains 
music  from  several  secular  cantatas.  In  most  cases  the  new  text  was,  in  its 
emotional  content,  akin  to  the  original  words.  The  'affections'  remained 
the  same,  even  though  Divinity  might  replace  a  human  being  in  the 
libretto.  Bach's  time  had  no  qualms  in  this  respect.  For  a  Baroque  com- 
poser, as  for  an  artist  of  the  Renaissance,  there  was  no  fundamental 
difference  between  profane  and  sacred  works.  Anything  that  stood  artis- 
tically on  a  high  level  was  suitable  as  a  part  of  worship.  Bach  had  clearly 
shown  this  attitude  by  introducing  operatic  and  concerto  elements  into  his 
church  cantatas.  A  good  'contrafactum,'  in  which  a  secular  work  was 
raised  to  a  higher  spiritual  level,  without  changing  the  prevailing  mood, 
has  at  times  been  effective  in  producing  some  of  Bach's  finest  composi- 
tions. And  in  the  process  of  adapting  earlier  compositions  to  new  texts, 
Bach  often  made  considerable  changes,  modifying  the  instrumentation, 
adjusting  the  melodic  line,  or  inventing  new  counterpoints  and  modula- 
tions in  order  to  achieve  a  better  co-ordination  of  word  and  sound.  Never- 
theless it  is  true  that  occasionally  a  new  composition  had  to  be  written  so 
quickly  that  neither  composer  nor  librettist  could  give  proper  care  to  the 

1  The   only  one  missing  was  Lobet  den  Herrn.  Printed  in  its  place  was  Johann 
Christoph  Bach's  Ich  lasse  dick  nicht,  then  considered  to  be  a  work  by  Sebastian. 

226  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

adaptation,  in  which  case  a  regrettable  discrepancy  between  the  libretto 
and  its  musical  setting  was  the  result.  Such  instances,  are  however,  not 

To  the  Weimar  period  belongs  cantata  No,  208,  Was  mir  behagt,  ist 
nur  die  muntre  Jagd  ('The  merry  chase,  the  hunt  is  my  delight'),  written 
in  171 6  for  the  birthday  of  the  Duke  of  Weissenfels,  to  words  by  Salomo 
Franck.  Its  charming  da  capo  aria  for  2  recorders  and  soprano  solo  'Sheep 
may  safely  graze'  belongs  to  the  most  intimate  and  delightful  pastorales 
Bach  ever  wrote.  The  composer  used  the  fresh  and  attractive  music  of  the 
cantata  with  more  or  less  changed  words  at  least  three  times  for  similar 
purposes.  Besides,  two  of  its  arias1  were  later  enlarged  and  rewritten  for 
the  Whitsuntide  Cantata  No.  68,  and  the  final  chorus  became  the  first 
number  in  Cantata  No.  149. 

A  product  of  the  Cothen  years  is  the  lovely  cantata  No.  202,  Weichet 
nur,  betriibte  Schatten  ('Vanish  now,  ye  winter  shadows')  for  soprano  solo, 
oboe,  strings,  and  continuo,  which  was  performed  during  the  wedding 
feast  of  an  unknown  couple.  Bach  offers  here  a  singularly  beautiful 
picture  of  youth  and  spring.  The  arpeggios  at  the  beginning,  describing 
the  gently  lifting  wintry  fog,  would  hardly  seem  amiss  in  the  score  of 
Haydn's  'Seasons'  {Ex.  36).  The  aria  next  to  the  last  number  resembles  a 


passepied,  and  the  place  of  the  traditional  final  chorale  of  the  church 
cantata  is  taken  here  by  a  gay  gavotte,  in  which  all  the  instruments  join 
the  soprano  to  wish  the  best  of  luck  to  the  newly  married  couple. 

The  number  of  secular  cantatas  written  in  Cothen  seems  to  be  larger 
than  is  usually  assumed.  Smend  recently  listed2  ten  compositions  either 
known  in  their  original  form  or  through  movements  later  incorporated 
into  church  cantatas.  The  words  to  three  more  cantatas  have  been  pre- 
served, though  their  music  has  not  yet  been  found. 

Various  secular  cantatas  were  written  in  Leipzig.  On  August  3,  1725, 
No.  205,  the  'Dramma  per  musica'  Der  ^ufriedengestellte  Aeolus  ('The 
pacified  Aeolus'),  was  performed  to  celebrate  the  name-day  of  Dr. 

1  The  'cello  theme  of  one  of  these  arias  (BWV  68/ 2)  was  also  used  in  an  instrumental 
movement  for  violin,  flute,  and  continuo  (BWV  1040). 
a  Cf.  'Bach  in  Kothen,'  p.  68. 


Augustus  Miiller,  member  of  the  faculty  of  Leipzig  University.  The 
libretto,  based  partly  on  Virgil,  tells  how  Aeolus,  the  God  of  the  winds, 
is  planning  to  release  the  autumn  gales.  Zephyrus,  the  mild  west  wind, 
and  Pomona,  the  fruit  goddess,  implore  him  in  vain  to  wait;  but  when 
Pallas  Athene  approaches  him  and  tells  him  that  she  is  preparing  a  festivity 
in  honour  of  Dr.  Miiller,  this  impresses  the  God  so  strongly  that  he  recalls 
his  subjects.  Bach's  very  striking  music  is  unusually  richly  scored,  with 
trumpets,  horns,  flutes,  various  oboes  and  strings,  as  the  work  was  meant 
for  an  outdoor  performance.  The  first  chorus  and  the  ensuing  recitative 
present  some  of  the  wildest  descriptions  of  turbulent  elements  that  the 
composer  has  ever  written.  Similar  in  expression  is  the  last  aria  of  Aeolus 
(bass)  accompanied  by  trumpets,  timpani  and  horns,  without  any  wood- 
wind or  strings.  A  most  effective  contrast  is  achieved  by  the  aria  of 
Zephyrus,  whose  gentle  nature  Bach  portrays  with  the  help  of  the  silvery 
viola  da  gamba  and  the  tender  viola  d'amore.  Nine  years  later  the  com- 
poser used  the  same  music  in  honour  of  another  man  by  the  name  of 
Augustus,  when  he  celebrated  the  coronation  of  the  Saxonian  Elector, 
Augustus  III,  as  King  of  Poland.  The  new  text,  possibly  written  by  Bach 
himself,  substitutes  Valour  for  Aeolus  and  Justice  for  Zephyrus.  It  cannot 
be  denied  that  this  substitution  is  not  altogether  successful.  The  text  of 
the  aria  of  Justice,  for  instance,  with  its  shallow  praise  of  the  ruler,  is  not 
in  accordance  with  the  peculiarly  delicate  instrumentation  taken  over 
from  the  original. 

Der  Streit  ^wischen  Phoebus  und  Pan  (No.  201,  'The  contest  between 
Phoebus  and  Pan'),  probably  performed  in  173 1  by  the  Collegium  Musi- 
cum,  is  a  satiric  burlesque  by  Picander,  based  on  Ovid's  'Metamorphoses,' 
in  which  Bach  ridicules  the  new  trends  in  music.  Phoebus,  representing 
tradition,  has  a  singing  competition  with  Pan,  the  representative  of  new- 
fangled notions.  Among  the  judges,  Tmolus  is  in  favour  of  Phoebus, 
while  Midas  prefers  Pan's  foolish  song,  and  in  punishment  for  his  faulty 
judgment  is  given  long  donkey's  ears.  In  this  Bach  had  a  chance  to  vent 
his  contempt  for  the  aesthetic  views  held  by  a  younger  generation,  views 
that  were  to  find  before  long  an  eloquent  advocate  in  Johann  Adolf 
Scheibe.  The  ill-advised  Midas  in  praising  Pan's  song,1  which  he  could 
grasp  and  remember  after  a  single  hearing,  and  in  criticizing  Phoebus' 
art  as  too  complex,  only  echoed  what  Bach  had  to  hear  time  and  again 
from  younger  musicians.  The  music  to  this  satire  is  quite  delightful. 
Phoebus'  prize-song,  prescribing  muted  strings,  oboe  d'amore,  and  flute 

1  This  song  (No.  7)  was  also  used  by  Bach  with  changed  words  in  his  'Peasant 
Cantata,'  No.  212. 



for  the  accompaniment,  exhibits  great  artistry  in  its  intricate  rhythmic 
differentiation  and  dynamic  shading.  Pan's  aria  is  simple  and  rather  crude 
and  is  written  in  the  form  of  a  rustic  dance;  while  in  the  ensuing  aria  of 
Tmolus  there  are  remarkable  dynamic  signs.  In  its  first  measure  the  com- 
poser clearly  asks  for  a  crescendo,  which  according  to  general  belief  was 
never  used  by  Bach  {Ex.  37).  When  Midas  defends  his  opinion,  Bach 



indicates  in  the  music  that  this  was  the  judgment  of  a  donkey,  deserving 
to  be  punished  by  the  growth  of  asinine  ears.  These  the  singer  describes, 
while  the  violins  imitate  the  braying  in  a  manner  similar  to  Mendelssohn's 
'Midsummer  Night's  Dream'  Overture  {Ex.  38). 

**•  m  jj  *r  1 1  r^H1 


£ot  dc  .  cor ding  io  my     ears. 

he    sings  su  -  per  J7y 

Of  more  general  interest  and  appeal  is  another  humorous  work,  the 
Coffee  Cantata  (No.  211),  first  performed  in  1732  by  the  Collegium  Musi- 
cum.  To  judge  by  its  small  orchestra  (strings  and  one  flute  only),  it  was 
meant  for  an  indoor  performance  in  winter.  Again  two  generations  con- 
front each  other,  but  this  time  the  younger  one  is  victorious.  Father 
Schlendrian  (whose  name  Henry  S.  Drinker  aptly  translates  as  'Old  Stick- 
in-the-Mud')  is  worried  because  his  daughter  Liesgen  has  fallen  victim  to 
the  new  craze  for  coffee  drinking.  All  his  attempts  to  lure  her  away  from 
so  detestable  a  habit  by  promise  or  threats  are  of  no  avail,  until  he  offers 
her  a  husband  as  a  bribe.  This  she  enthusiastically  accepts,  and  the  father 
rushes  off  to  secure  one.  Picander's  little  poem  ends  at  this  point.  Bach, 
however,  had  learned  only  too  well  from  his  own  family-life  that  it  is  not 
so  easy  to  influence  the  young.  He  therefore  adds  a  recitative,  in  which 
Liesgen's  plans  are  revealed;  any  man  who  wishes  to  wed  her  must  consent 
to  a  clause  in  the  marriage  contract  entitling  her  to  drink  coffee  whenever 
she  pleases.  Finally,  there  is  a  short  cow  of  the  3  singers  accepting  the 
coffee-craze  as  something  inevitable.  This  amusing  libretto  is  treated  by 
Bach  in  the  manner  of  an  oratorio.  A  'Historicus'  imitating  the  style  of  the 
Evangelist  in  the  Passions,  explains  the  plot  at  the  beginning  and  again 



near  the  end.  In  between  there  are  arias  and  recitatives,  and  with  the  help 
of  masterly  little  touches  a  kind  of  comic  opera  is  created  that  makes  a 
charming  effect  both  in  the  concert  hall  and  on  the  stage.  The  composer 
succeeds  in  building  up  two  characters  who  are  very  human  indeed:  a 
grumbling  boorish  father  and  an  obstinate,  wily  daughter.  The  caricature 
of  the  father  is  drawn  with  particular  gusto.  When  the  'Historicus'  first 
mentions  him,  heavy  dotted  rhythms  appear  in  the  bass,  with  the  prescrip- 
tion con  pompa,  while  in  the  first  aria  the  violins  growl  to  indicate  his 
vicious  temper.  When  he  later  threatens  to  deprive  Liesgen  of  the  fashion- 
able crinoline,  Bach  indicates  its  terrific  width  by  the  skip  of  a  ninth  (Ex. 
39).  Liesgen's  aria  in  praise  of  coffee  is  a  little  conventional  in  its  musical 

~3ou    will      not       get 

ctj  .  no  .   line     o£     mod  .  ish  width  Witt       -wale  .  bones 

diction,  as  though  the  composer  wanted  to  hint  that  the  girl  had  adopted 
coffee  drinking  merely  to  follow  the  fashion.  In  the  second  aria,  however, 
her  enthusiasm  for  a  prospective  husband  is  not  simulated.  The  joy  she 
expresses  in  this  folksong-like  tune  in  dance  rhythm  is  quite  infectious  and 
carries  the  listener  away.  The  composer's  earthy  nature  is  manifest  in  the 
middle  section  of  the  aria.  During  a  rather  immodest  allusion  by  Liesgen1 
(meas.  81-89)  &e  higher  instruments  are  omitted  from  the  accompani- 
ment to  ensure  that  the  audience  hears  every  word  of  it.  This  aria  must 
have  sounded  particularly  funny  to  the  coffee-house  audience,  when, 
owing  to  the  exclusion  of  women  from  such  places,  a  male  student,  singing 
falsetto,  proclaimed  his  ardent  desire  for  a  'husky  hero.' 

There  is  less  artistry  and  a  more  popular  trend  in  the  Peasant  Cantata 
(No.  212)  which  Bach  wrote  in  1742  for  a  rustic  celebration  held  in  honour 
of  Karl  Heinrich  v.  Dieskau,  new  lord  of  the  manor  of  two  villages  near 
Leipzig.  The  text  of  this  Cantate  en  burlesque,  as  Bach  called  it,  is  by 
Picander;  it  is  in  Saxon  dialect  and  Bach  has  given  each  of  the  numbers 
the  character  of  a  then  fashionable  dance,  such  as  bourree,  mazurka  and 



Oh,   may  you.  get  ten.thovs.a.nd     due.  -  a.ts  for      day    in    the      year.. 

polonaise,  while  the  overture  is  a  medley  of  fragments  from  various  folk- 
dances.  Three  actual  folksongs  such  as  Ex.  40  are  even  inserted  in  the 

1  This  detail  is  omitted  in  any  English  translation  of  the  work  known  to  the  author. 


arias,1  and  Bach  aims  at  similar  results  with  his  own  tunes.  The  orchestra, 
in  true  peasant  manner,  consists  in  most  of  the  numbers  of  only  one 
violin,  one  viola  and  a  double  bass  (continuo).  Equally  economical  is  the 
vocal  apparatus:  one  soprano  and  one  bass.  The  humorous  plot,  the  very 
limited  number  of  performers,  and  the  unassuming,  catchy  musical  idiom 
clearly  indicate  that  Bach  was  adopting  the  language  of  the  new  genera- 
tion. Once  more  he  showed  that  although  his  main  interest  belonged  to 
older  forms  he  was  quite  willing  at  times  to  forsake  his  aloofness,  and  to 
write  music  so  simple  and  appealing  that  even  his  youngest  critic  could 
not  find  fault  with  it. 

Three  of  Bach's  church  compositions,  written  in  the  middle  of  the 
thirties,  were  designated  by  the  composer  himself  as  Oratorios.  They  are 
the  Christmas  Oratorio  {BWV  248),  which,  according  to  the  printed 
libretto,  was  performed  in  1734;2  the  oratorio  for  Ascension  Day, 
generally  known  as  cantata  No.  11,  from  approximately  the  same  period; 
and  the  Easter  Oratorio  {BWV  249)  of  1736.  It  has  been  known  for  a 
long  time  that  parts  of  the  Christmas  Oratorio  are  'contrafacta'  of  secular 
cantatas.3  Friedrich  Smend  proved  the  same  to  be  true  of  the  two  other 
works  of  this  group.4  The  Easter  Oratorio  occupies  an  isolated  position 
among  Bach's  vocal  compositions,  since  it  is  his  only  work  for  the 
church  whose  entire  text  consists  of  a  dialogue  in  rhymes.  The  Ascen- 
sion Day  Oratorio,  on  the  other  hand,  is  not  very  different  from  Bach's 

The  most  important  and,  at  the  same  time,  the  most  extensive  of  these 
three  works  is  the  Christmas  Oratorio.  Although  it  is  a  series  of  six  can- 
tatas, which  were  performed  on  the  three  Christmas  days,  New  Year's 
day,  the  following  Sunday,  and  Epiphany,  it  yet  shows  unity  in  its  con- 
struction. As  in  the  Passions,  sections  from  the  New  Testament  are 
narrated  by  an  evangelist,  while  the  utterances  of  individual  persons  are 
entrusted  to  soloists,  and  those  of  a  group  to  the  chorus.  Bach  interrupts 
the  Biblical  story  again  and  again  with  lyrical  episodes  such  as  chorales 

1  Bach  also  did  not  hesitate  to  include  a  melody  by  Anton  Seemann,  conductor  of 
Count  Sporck,  in  Aria  No.  16. 

2  Schering's  contention  in  'Musikgeschichte  Leipzigs,'  III,  p.  223,  that  the  work 
was  performed  one  year  later,  has  not  been  sufficiently  proved. 

3  Nos.  4,  19,  29,  30,  39,  41  are  taken  from  Cantata  No.  213;  Nos.  1,  8,  15,  24  from 
Cantata  No.  214;  No.  47  from  Cantata  No.  215;  No.  45  from  the  St.  Mark  Passion. 

4  Cf.  AfMf,  VII  (1942),  and  'Bach  Gedenkschrift,'  1952. 



and  arias.  Thus  he  creates  pure  music  for  the  church,  serving  the  purpose 
of  edifying  and  uplifting  the  congregation.  The  sequence  of  keys  and  the 
orchestration  give  a  kind  of  rondo-like  character  to  the  work.  Cantatas 
No.  I,  III,  VI  are  in  the  main  key  of  D,  and  are  scored  for  a  big  orchestra 
(with  trumpets,  timpani,  woodwind,  strings).  Nos.  II,  IV,  V,  which  are 
in  the  related  keys  of  G,  F,  and  A,  do  not  use  trumpets. 

The  Christmas  Oratorio  offers  us  a  chance  to  study  the  technique 
employed  by  Bach  in  his  'contrafacta.'  As  model  for  one  of  its  numbers 
he  uses  an  aria  which,  in  the  secular  cantata  Hercules  aufdem  Scheidewege 
(No.  213,  'Hercules  at  the  crossroads'),  Sensuality  sings  to  young  Her- 
cules. It  begins  with  the  words  'Sleep,  my  beloved,  enjoy  thou  thy  rest,' 
and  accordingly  the  composer  set  it  as  a  lullaby.  Without  compunction  he 
could  use  it  for  another  lullaby  in  the  Christmas  Oratorio,  starting  with 
the  words  'Sleep,  my  beloved,  and  rest  thee  a  while.'  But  in  the  case  of 
the  aria  'Prepare  thyself,  Zion'  of  the  Christmas  Oratorio  it  is  rather 
different,  as  a  comparison  with  the  original  text  from  'Hercules'  will  show. 


I  will  not  regard  thee 

but  wholly  discard  thee, 
Contemptible  pleasure, 

I  value  thee  not. 
Like  the  serpent 

who  attacked  me  in  my  cradle 
Thee  will  I  strangle 

thou  serpent,  destroy  thee. 

Christmas  Oratorio 

Prepare  thyself,  Zion, 

with  tender  emotion 
The  Fairest,  the  Dearest 

to  welcome  to  thee. 
With  what  yearning 

must  thy  heart  to-day  be  burning, 
Welcome  thy  dear  one 

with  loving  devotion. 

To  overcome  the  emotional  disparity  between  the  two  texts,  Bach 
changed  both  the  scoring  and  phrasing.  The  original  was  for  violins  I  and 
II  in  unison  and  continue  In  the  oratorio  he  omitted  violin  II  and  re- 
placed it  by  the  tender  oboe  d'amore.  At  the  same  time  the  bassoon  was 
added  to  the  bass.  The  threatening  'unisono  e  staccato'  in  the  secular 


Hercules  <a<  the  Crossroads 

unisono    e   St4.cce.i0 

Christmas  Oratorio 

cantata  was,  with  the  help  of  slurs  and  appogiaturas,  transformed  into  a 
caressing  tune  (Ex.  41).  The  winding  line  in  the  bass  used  in  'Hercules'  to 

232  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

portray  the  snake  was  not  conspicuous  enough  to  call  for  a  change.  Thus 
Bach  achieved  a  successful  adaptation  with  a  minimum  of  effort. 

It  is  hard  to  single  out  individual  numbers  of  this  masterpiece.  Among 
the  highlights  is  the  Sinfonia  at  the  beginning  of  the  second  part;  a 
Siciliano  of  singular  beauty,  akin  in  character  to  the  Sinfonia  Pastorale  in 
Handel's  'Messiah,'  but  deviating  from  it  significantly  in  its  more  intricate 
orchestration  and  texture.  The  treatment  of  the  chorales  is  also  out- 
standing. At  the  end  of  the  second  cantata  the  chorus  sings  the  tune  of 
'From  heaven  above  to  earth  I  come,'  while  the  orchestra  again  intones 
the  enraptured  Pastorale  of  the  beginning.  Although  the  general  mood  of 
the  oratorio  is  one  of  exultation,  the  thought  of  Christ's  sacrifice  also 
plays  an  important  role.  The  Passion-hymn  'Oh  sacred  head  now 
wounded'  appears  both  as  the  first  and  as  the  ultimate  chorale  of  the  whole 
oratorio;  thus  emphasizing  that  only  through  the  death  of  Jesus  did  the 
birth  of  the  heavenly  child  result  in  the  salvation  of  mankind. 

In  its  original  form  the  Magnificat  (BWV  243)  was  also  meant  for  a 
performance  at  Christmas.  In  this  version,  written  in  1723,  the  Bible  text 
(Luke  i,  46-55)  was  repeatedly  interrupted  by  chorales,  Christmas  songs, 
etc.  Around  the  year  1730  Bach  revised  the  composition,  changing  its  key 
from  Eb  to  D,  altering  the  instrumentation,  and  eliminating  the  insertions; 
thus  making  the  work  suitable  for  performance  on  other  occasions.  In  its 
definitive  form  the  Magnificat,  except  for  the  concluding  Gloria,  contains 
nothing  but  Mary's  Hymn,  from  the  Vulgate.  It  is  one  of  the  most  com- 
pact compositions  by  Bach,  imbued  with  joy  and  exultation,  and  radiating 
the  same  happy  optimism  which  had  found  so  irresistible  an  expression  in 
the  Brandenburg  Concertos.  The  brief  movements  (lasting  an  average  of 
3  minutes)  are  clearly  united  in  three  groups,  each  starting  with  an  aria 
and  ending  with  a  full  chorus.  The  individual  sections  are  framed  by  the 
mighty  initial  Magnificat  chorus  and  the  concluding  Gloria,  which,  at  the 
words  Sicut  erat  inprincipio  ('As  it  was  in  the  beginning'),  quotes  the  music 
of  the  first  number.1  Each  individual  piece,  in  spite  of  its  brevity,  has  its 
own  clearly  defined  emotional  character.  The  first  Magnificat,  scored  for 
full  orchestra  (trumpets,  timpani,  woodwind,  strings,  organ)  and  five- 
part  chorus,  carries  us  away  with  its  brilliance  and  exuberance.  An  over- 
whelming effect  is  produced  later,  in  the  aria  for  alto  solo,  Quia  respexit 

1  In  the  motet,  Jesu,  meine  Freude,  also  written  in  1723,  we  find  the  same  device. 
Here  too  the  beginning  and  end  of  the  composition  are  musically  alike. 

J.    SEBASTIAN   S    ST.    JOHN    PASSION  233 

('For  he  hath  regarded  the  low  estate  of  his  handmaiden'),  when  at  the 
words  omnes  generationes  ('all  generations  shall  call  me  blessed')  the  full 
chorus  suddenly  cuts  the  solo  voice  short.  Of  transcendent  beauty  is  the 
trio  for  2  sopranos  and  alto  Suscepit  Israel  ('He  hath  holpen  his  servant 
Israel')  to  which  the  2  oboes  intone  in  unison,  like  a  cantus  firmus,  the 
venerable  Magnificat  tune.  Only  Sebastian  Bach  could  write  a  com- 
position so  strict  in  form  and  yet  so  tender  and  ethereal.  To  the  following 
Sicut  locutus  est  ('As  he  spake  to  our  fathers')  the  composer  gives  an  old- 
fashioned  motet  character  by  writing  a  vocal  fugue,  unaccompanied  by 
the  orchestra,  to  stress  the  connection  with  the  past.  After  this  austere 
piece,  the  re-entrance  of  the  orchestra  in  the  ensuing  Gloria  is  all  the  more 
dazzling.  Twice  the  voices  rise  in  a  mighty  arc  to  glorify  the  Father  and 
the  Son.  At  the  words  et  Spiritui  sancto  the  melodic  line  is  inverted  to 
symbolize  the  descent  of  the  Holy  Ghost.  Here  the  entrance  of  the 
trumpets  leads  to  the  climax  of  the  work,  triumphantly  proclaiming  in  its 
music  'My  soul  doth  magnify  the  Lord.' 

According  to  the  Necrology  Bach  wrote  five  Passions,  but  only  two 
of  them  have  actually  been  preserved:  the  Passions  according  to  St.  John 
and  according  to  St.  Matthew.  The  earlier  of  these  is  the  St.  John  Passion 
{BWV  245),  which  the  composer  wrote  while  still  in  Cothen  in  order 
to  present  it  on  Good  Friday,  1723,  at  Leipzig.  For  four  subsequent  per- 
formances under  Bach's  direction,  the  composer  made  various  alterations. 
Basically  the  work  already  shows  the  construction  to  be  found  in  the  later 
Passion  and  in  the  Christmas  Oratorio  (cf.  p.  230).  The  main  part  of  the 
text  is  supplied  by  the  Bible,  in  this  case  taken  from  St.  John  xviii-xix 
(with  short  insertions  from  St.  Matthew).  The  narration  is  done  in  recita- 
tive form  by  a  tenor,  the  Evangelist;  individual  characters,  including  Christ, 
are  sung  by  soloists;  and  utterances  of  the  crowds  by  the  chorus.  Arias 
inserted  in  between  express  the  reaction  of  the  individual  to  the  events 
described,  and  chorales  that  of  the  whole  congregation.  The  work  is  in 
two  sections,  to  be  performed  before  and  after  the  sermon.  It  seems  that 
Bach  himself  was  responsible  for  the  selection  of  the  chorales,  and  that  he 
also  provided  the  texts  for  the  arias.  In  these  he  often  followed  the  model 
of  a  text  by  the  Hamburg  Councillor,  Barthold  Heinrich  Brockes,  Derfiir 
die  Siinde  der  Welt  gemarterte  und  sterbende  Jesus  ('Jesus  tortured  and 
dying  for  the  sin  of  the  world'),  which  had  been  set  to  music  by  Handel,1 

1  Bach  owned  a  copy  of  Handel's  work. 

234  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

Telemann,  Mattheson,  Keiser  and  others.  But  even  in  these  pieces  Bach 
never  copied  Brockes  literally,  and,  in  particular,  he  did  not  adopt  the 
poet's  rhymed  paraphrases  of  the  Bible  text.  Moreover,  he  included  some 
words  from  J.  G.  Postel's  'St.  John  Passion,'  which  Handel  had  set  to 
music  at  the  age  of  19.  Bach  apparently  knew  this  score,  as  there  are  a  few 
slight  analogies  between  the  two  works.1 

An  interesting  peculiarity  of  Bach's  score  is  the  repeated  use  of  the 
same  music  for  various  short  choruses  of  the  crowds.  Some  pieces  are 
employed  twice,  one  (No.  3,  'Jesus  of  Nazareth')  with  little  variations 
as  often  as  five  times  (also  in  Nos.  5,  29, 46,  and  in  the  accompaniment  of 
No.  25).  It  has  been  suggested  that  lack  of  time  in  preparing  the  score  for 
the  first  performance  caused  Bach  to  adopt  this  method.  Had  this  been 
the  case,  the  composer  could  easily  have  remedied  this  deficiency  when  he 
subsequently  revised  the  work.  Actually,  these  repetitions  are  indispens- 
able for  the  architectural  plan  of  the  whole  work  as  Bach  had  conceived  it. 
In  order  to  achieve  the  'chiastic'  arrangement  which  was  one  of  Bach's 
favourite  forms  throughout  his  life  (cf.  p.  202),  the  composer  distributed 
related  choruses  in  widely  separated  sections  of  his  score.  To  take,  for 
instance,  the  'heart-piece'2  of  the  second  part:  the  chorus  No.  29,  the 
solos  Nos.  31/32,  and  the  chorus  No.  34  form  a  unit  that  recurs  with 
similar  music  in  Nos.  46,  48,  50.3  The  chorus  No.  36  corresponds  to 
No.  44,  and  No.  38  is  practically  identical  with  No.  42.  In  the  centre 
of  the  section  is  a  chorale  (No.  40),  just  as  chorales  (Nos.  27  and  52) 
frame  the  whole  'heart-piece.'  The  overall  arrangement  is  therefore 

A  B  CDEDC  B  A 

27      29,31/2,34       36     38    40     42     44     46,48,50        52 

The  perfect  symmetry  of  form  is  matched  by  inexhaustible  harmonic 
imagination  in  the  chorales  and  a  tremendous  power  of  expression.  It  is 
hard  to  decide  what  to  admire  more  in  this  score:  the  pithy,  exciting 
choruses,  creating  a  weird  picture  of  the  turgid  crowds,  or  the  intensely 
dramatic,  at  times  almost  violent  recitatives.  How  stirring,  for  instance,  is 
the  recitative  depicting  the  tears  of  Peter  after  his  denial  of  the  Lord, 
which  is  followed  by  the  aria  in  f  sharp  minor  expressing  man's  confusion 
and  desolation!  This  first  large  work  by  the  new  music  director  must  have 

1  Handel's  Passion  is  available  in  a  Swiss  recording  conducted  by  B.  Henking. 

2  Cf.  Smend  in  BJ,  1926. 

8  The  numbers  in  between,  not  mentioned  here,  are  those  of  the  connecting 

J.    SEBASTIAN   S    ST.    MATTHEW    PASSION  235 

sounded  strange  indeed  to  the  ears  of  the  Leipzig  congregation,  accus- 
tomed as  they  were  to  Kuhnau's  gentle  tunes. 

In  later  years  Bach  felt  it  was  necessary  to  improve  this  youthful  com- 
position. The  final  visionary  chorale  was  added,  and  the  soulful  intro- 
ductory chorale  fantasia  'O  man,  thy  grievous  sins  bemoan'1  was  replaced 
by  a  powerful  da  capo  chorus.  On  the  other  hand,  the  beautiful  aria  and 
chorale  which  originally  followed  No.  1 5  were  altogether  omitted  in  the 
interests  of  structural  cohesion.  The  aria  'Do  not  writhe,  tormented 
souls,'  with  its  somewhat  exaggerated  pictorialism,  was  supplanted  by  a 
poignant  arioso  with  following  aria  (Nos.  31/32)  to  which  the  accompani- 
ment of  2  viole  d'amore  and  lute  added  mellowness.  In  making  this 
change  Bach  achieved  an  overwhelming  contrast  between  the  crude  picture 
of  tortured  Jesus  and  the  unearthly  bliss  derived  from  His  sacrifice.  This 
arioso  reveals,  with  an  intensity  only  rarely  equalled  in  Bach's  works,  the 
composer's  innermost  faith. 

Bach  performed  his  St.  Matthew  Passion  (BWV  244)  for  the  first 
time  on  Good  Friday,  1729.2  We  do  not  know  how  long  he  was  engaged 
in  the  tremendous  task  of  its  composition,  but  while  still  working  on  the 
Passion  news  reached  him  that  on  November  19,  1728,  his  beloved  friend, 
Prince  Leopold  of  Anhalt-Cothen,  had  suddenly  died,  and  that  he  was 
expected  to  supply  and  perform  a  funeral  music  at  the  memorial  service 
in  the  following  spring.  Nothing  seemed  more  appropriate  than  to  use 
parts  of  his  sublime  new  work  for  this  purpose,  and  so  Picander,  the 
librettist  of  the  St.  Matthew  Passion,  was  requested  to  paraphrase  the 
text  of  nine  pieces3  from  it.  The  funeral  cantata  Klagt,  Kinder  ('Lament,  O 
children' \BWV 244a4)  was  played  on  March  24,  1729  at  Cothen.  Shortly 
afterwards  the  mighty  Passion  itself  resounded  at  St.  Thomas'. 

The  St.  Matthew  Passion  represents  the  climax  of  Bach's  music  for 

1  It  was  instead  inserted  into  the  St.  Matthew  Passion  as  the  concluding  number  of 
the  first  part. 

2  Schering's  theory  that  the  performance  of  the  St.  Matthew  Passion  did  not  take 
place  until  1731  and  that  the  St.  Mark  Passion  was  played  in  1729  (cf.  BJ,  1939)  can  no 
longer  be  upheld,  in  spite  of  the  many  psychological  reasons  which  seem  to  corroborate 
the  later  date.  Smend  pointed  out  in  BJ,  1940-48  that  Zelter,  in  the  programme  notes  to 
the  first  Berlin  performance  of  the  St.  Matthew  Passion  in  1829,  referred  to  the  'old 
church  text,'  evidently  the  church  programme  of  the  Passion,  in  his  possession,  which  was 
clearly  dated  1729. 

3  They  are  Nos.  10,  47,  58,  66,  29,  26,  75,  19,  78. 

4  Smend,  I.e.,  proved  from  the  Cothen  account  books  that  not  one  but  two  funeral 
cantatas  were  performed  on  this  occasion,  one  on  March  23  at  night,  the  other  on  March 
24.  Of  the  first  no  trace  has  been  found  yet,  but  it  is  evidendy  the  work  to  which  Forkel 
alludes  in  his  Bach  Biography,  praising  its  'double  choruses  of  uncommon  magnificence.' 
The  score  which  Forkel  owned  has  been  missing  since  1818. 

236  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

the  Protestant  Church.  It  uses  the  largest  performing  apparatus  and  is  in 
scope  one  of  the  composer's  most  extensive  works.  Bach's  own  concep- 
tion of  its  importance  is  clearly  revealed  in  the  exquisite  score  he  made  of 
it  after  1740,  one  which  is  unique  even  among  his  many  beautiful  manu- 
scripts. He  worked  on  it  with  ruler  and  compass,  and  he  used  red  ink  for 
the  Bible  words  to  distinguish  the  divine  message  from  the  rest  of  the 
text.  The  composer  wanted  this  Passion  to  be  of  general  appeal,  and  in- 
deed there  is  in  this  work  a  simplicity  and  directness  not  often  to  be  found 
in  Bach's  larger  compositions.  The  motto  which  Beethoven  placed  in 
front  of  his  Missa  Solemnis — 'It  comes  from  the  heart — may  it  go  to 
the  heart' — can  well  be  applied  to  this  work  also. 

Although  the  basic  elements  are  once  more  the  same,  the  'Passion 
according  to  St.  John'  and  that  'according  to  St.  Matthew'  are  highly 
different  in  character.  In  the  later  composition  vehemence  and  violence 
no  longer  dominate.  The  work  radiates  tenderness  and  love;  harsh  con- 
trasts are  toned  down,  and  a  heart-stirring  blend  of  bliss  and  grief  such  as 
only  Bach  could  create,  prevails  throughout  the  composition.  According 
to  the  Gospel,  the  Christ  of  the  St.  John  Passion  was  endowed  with 
sublime  calm  and  remoteness.  The  gospel  of  St.  Matthew,  however, 
allowed  Bach  to  express  his  own  fervent  Jesusminne.  Here  there  is  no  un- 
bridgeable gap  between  the  human  and  the  divine;  the  Lord  approaches 
mankind  in  His  suffering,  and  mankind  suffers  with  Him.  While  in  the 
earlier  Passion  the  utterances  of  Christ  are  in  recitatives  accompanied  by 
the  organ  only,  the  St.  Matthew  Passion,  following  the  example  of  Schiitz 
and  Telemann,  uses  a  string  quartet  to  surround  the  personality  of  the 
Lord  with  a  kind  of  halo.1  Only  once  is  this  recitative  transformed  into  an 
arioso:  when  at  the  last  supper  Jesus  explains  the  mystic  significance  of 
bread  and  wine.  And  only  once  are  the  accompanying  strings  silenced: 
when  Christ  in  agony  cries  out  'My  God,  why  hast  Thou  forsaken  me  ?' 
the  halo  is  extinguished. 

In  accordance  with  the  great  store  Bach  set  by  the  work,  he  had  re- 
course to  a  wealth  of  executants  far  exceeding  that  in  the  St.  John 
Passion,  indeed  hardly  used  in  any  of  his  other  compositions.  In  its 
definitive  form  the  St.  Matthew  Passion  employs  2  mixed  choruses,  2 
orchestras,  and  another  group  of  boy-singers  for  the  cantus  firmus  of  the 
first  chorus.  The  use  of  the  two  choirs  is  scrupulously  indicated  in  the 
score.  If  there  are  no  independent  parts  for  each  of  the  8  voices,  Bach 
prescribes  which  choir  should  perform  an  individual  number,  or  whether 

1  This  very  apt  comparison  was  coined  a  century  ago  by  Winterfeld  in  his  'Evangel- 
ischer  Kirchengesang.' 

J.    SEBASTIAN   S    ST.    MATTHEW    PASSION  237 

they  should  join  forces.  The  composer's  zest  for  experimenting  and  for 
mingling  stylistic  elements  found  ample  satisfaction  in  this  work.  The 
recitatives  of  the  Evangelist,  accompanied  by  basses  and  organ  only, 
speak  an  exciting  tonal  language,  such  as  had  hardly  been  conceived 
before.  For  certain  occasions,  as  the  crying  of  Peter,  the  recitative 
changes  to  a  melisma  of  deep  intensity.  At  times  the  bass  accompaniment 
matches  the  highly  dramatic  narration;  for  instance,  in  the  famous  de- 
scription of  the  rending  of  the  Temple  veil  and  the  earthquake  after  the 
death  of  Christ.  Among  the  gems  of  the  score  are  the  accompanied  recita- 
tives preceding  the  arias.  These  brief  ariosos  contain  some  of  the  most 
exquisite  music  Bach  ever  wrote,  such  as  No.  74,  'At  even,  sweet,  cool 
hour  of  rest,'  which,  quite  in  the  romantic  manner,  links  the  stillness  of 
evening  with  the  peace  achieved  through  Jesus'  death.  In  two  cases  recita- 
tives are  combined  with  choral  numbers.  In  No.  25,  'Ah  woe,  how 
trembles  His  tormented  heart,'  an  accompanied  recitative  alternates  with 
verses  from  a  chorale,  a  technique  Bach  was  to  employ  in  his  late  chorale 
cantatas.  Similarly  in  No.  77,  'And  now  the  Lord  is  laid  to  rest,'  each  of  the 
four  soloists  in  a  brief  arioso  says  a  tender  farewell  to  the  Master,  and  in 
between  the  chorus  sings  a  deeply  moving  refrain. 

The  arias  are  often  arranged  as  duets  between  a  singer  and  an  instru- 
ment of  approximately  the  same  range.  No.  58,  for  instance,  'For  love,  oh 
my  Saviour,'  is  scored  for  soprano  voice  and  solo  flute,  and,  to  enhance 
its  poignant  character,  the  accompaniment  is  provided  by  2  oboi  da  caccia 
(English  horns)  without  any  strings  or  organ.  In  the  aria  No.  26  for  tenor 
solo  and  chorus,  Bach's  feeling  for  pictorialism  makes  a  characteristic 
excursion  into  the  realm  of  numbers.  The  tenor,  representing  Peter,  sings 
'Yea,  I  will  watch  with  Jesus  gladly.'  The  chorus  adds  the  refrain,  'So  all 
our  sins  have  gone  to  sleep'  ten  times,  once  for  each  of  the  remaining 
disciples  (except  the  absent  Judas)  who  are  gradually  succumbing  to  sleep. 
Similarly  the  duet  with  chorus  (No.  33)  after  Christ's  capture  can  be  inter- 
preted as  the  expression  of  grief  by  two  distressed  disciples,  who  are  being 
interrupted  by  nine  (three  times  three)  brief  ejaculations  of  the  chorus 
'Loose  Him — Halt  ye — Bind  Him  not,'  one  for  each  of  the  remaining 
followers  of  the  Lord.  This  leads  us  finally  to  the  well-known  chorus 
'Lord,  not  I?'  after  Jesus  has  said  that  one  of  His  disciples  will  betray  Him. 
The  same  question  is  asked  eleven  times,  and  Bach  thus  implies  that  each 
of  the  disciples,  except  Judas,  raises  his  voice. 

In  the  St.  Matthew  Passion  the  composer  avoids  the  repetition  of 
music  in  the  crowd  scenes  that  played  so  important  a  part  in  the  structure 
of  the  St.  John  Passion.  The  variety  in  these  choruses  is  quite  over- 

238  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

whelming.  Stupid  slander  could  hardly  have  been  better  portrayed  than 
in  the  canon  (No.  39),  in  which  one  false  witness  slavishly  repeats  every 
word  of  the  other  witness's  accusation.  How  stunning  are  the  3  powerful 
chords  used  at  the  word  'Barrabas';  the  senseless  fury  of  the  crowd  in 
'Let  Him  be  crucified,'  ending  abruptly  in  an  unexpected  key;  and  the 
increasing  vigour  in  the  8-part  chorus  (No.  67)  'Saviour  was  He  of  others,' 
in  which  the  2  choruses  at  first  respond  to  each  other,  then  join  forces,  and 
end  in  a  weird  unison,  accusing  Jesus  of  blasphemy  for  having  said  'I  am 
God's  own  son'  (Ex.  42). 

v      — 


TMs      man    has      VI      am 

i     J>    k 

J A 


Cjod's  own     6o7i . 


r  m  P  p  p 

The  chorale  tunes,  on  the  other  hand,  are  repeated  in  this  work  even 
more  frequently  than  in  the  earlier  Passion.  Bach's  favourite,  'Oh  sacred 
Head  now  wounded'  appears  no  less  than  five  times  in  different  places, 
with  words  and  harmonization  superbly  matching  the  mood  of  the 
moment.  In  the  selection  of  the  venerable  tunes  and  texts,  and  in  the 
choice  of  their  appropriate  position  within  the  score,  Bach  shows  a 
poetical  power  and  insight  given  only  to  one  who  was  the  product  of 
many  generations  of  Protestant  church  musicians.1 

In  the  initial  number  of  the  St.  Matthew  Passion  Bach  introduced  a 
chorale  melody  as  a  cantus  firmus.  It  was  played  by  the  organ  in  the  first 
performances,  but  was  later  taken  over  by  a  separate  boys'  choir.  This  is 
the  most  elaborate  piece  of  the  whole  composition.  Two  wildly  excited 
groups  confront  each  other  with  terse  questions  and  sorrowful  answers, 
against  a  background  of  floods  of  tears,  suggested  by  the  heaving  and 
milling  orchestra.  Above  the  passionate  grief  of  humanity  thus  depicted 
rises  the  crystal-clear,  serene  church  tune,  thus  setting  the  stage  for  this 
work  on  mortal  frailty  and  divine  strength. 

Of  the  St.  Mark  Passion  (BWV  247),  first  performed  on  Good 
Friday  173 1,  only  Picander's  libretto  has  been  preserved.  A  small  part  of 
the  composition  has  survived,  however,  in  other  sacred  works.  Two 
choruses  and  three  arias  originated  with  the  Trauer-Ode  (Cantata  198, 

1  Picander  omits  the  chorales  in  his  edition  of  the  libretto,  thus  indicating  that  they 
were  not  chosen  by  him. 

J.    SEBASTIAN   S    MASSES  239 

written  in  1727  in  memory  of  the  Electress  Christiane  Eberhardine  (cf. 
p.  173);  one  aria  is  to  be  found  in  Cantata  54;  and  one  chorus  in  the 
Christmas  Oratorio.  About  the  two  other  Passions  nothing  definite  is 
known.  The  St.  Luke  Passion  {BWV  246)  printed  by  BG  is  in  all  likeli- 
hood not  by  Bach. 

Around  the  year  1737  the  composer  wrote  4  short  Masses  {BWV 
233-36)  consisting  of  Kyrie  and  Gloria  only.  Most  of  their  numbers  are 
only  adaptations  from  earlier  church  cantatas.  The  Mass  in  G,  for  instance, 
is  based  on  choruses,  arias,  and  a  duet  from  Cantatas  17,  79,  138,  and  179. 
The  Kyrie  of  the  Mass  in  F,  one  of  the  few  movements  which  is  not  a 
'contrafactum,'  gives  the  ancient  melody  of  the  Litany  to  the  bass  voices, 
while  at  the  same  time  horns  and  oboes  intone,  as  an  additional  cantus 
firmus,  the  chorale  tune  Ckriste,  du  Lamm  Gottes  ('Christ,  Thou  Lamb  of 
God');  a  remarkable  attempt  to  bring  elements  of  the  Protestant  and 
Catholic  services  into  an  artistic  whole.1 

A  similar  venture  of  far  greater  significance  had  been  made  by  Bach 
in  an  earlier  work.  In  1733  he  composed  a  Kyrie  to  mourn  the  death  of 
Augustus  'the  Strong'  and  a  Gloria  to  celebrate  the  ascension  to  the  throne 
of  Augustus  III  (cf.  p.  184).  Subsequently  he  expanded  the  work  into 
a  complete  setting  of  the  Latin  Ordinary  of  the  Mass,  the  only  one  of  its 
kind  he  has  left  us.  It  seems  that  Bach,  the  protagonist  of  Protestant  music, 
did  not  see  anything  inappropriate  in  this  action.  He  knew  that  Luther 
had  never  entirely  removed  the  Latin  Mass  from  the  Protestant  service, 
and  that  sections  from  it  were  still  used  in  his  own  time.  Above  all,  he 
wanted  to  write  a  work  that  spoke  to  the  whole  of  Christianity.  The 
composition  known  as  the  Mass  in  B  minor  {BWV 232)  is  a  monumental 
work  of  lofty  grandeur  abounding  in  forms  of  intricate  technical  mastery, 
such  as  a  superb  passacaglia,  highly  artistic  fugues  with  stretti,  augmenta- 
tions, and  other  devices  of  the  strict  contrapuntal  style.  There  is  an  awe- 
inspiring  remoteness  in  this  work,  and  only  when  the  text  refers  to  Jesus 
does  the  musical  idiom  assume  a  more  personal  and  intimate  character. 
Thus  the  duet  Chris te  eleison  ('Christ  have  mercy  on  us')  radiates  ethereal 
bliss  and  ecstatic  longing,  in  marked  contrast  to  the  first  and  the  second 
Kyrie  eleison  which  address  God  the  Father  and  God  the  Holy  Ghost  in  a 
spirit  of  sadness,  guilt,  and  despair.  Similarly  the  two  choruses  Qui  tollis 

1  The  5  'Sancti'  which  are  preserved  in  Bach's  own  hand  {BWV  237-41)  are  believed 
to  be  mainly  arrangements  of  works  by  other  composers. 

240  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

peccata  mundi  ('Which  taketh  away  the  sins  of  the  world')  and  Et  incarnatus 
est  ('And  was  made  man')  are  both  simple,  heart-stirring  compositions, 
fervently  expressing  Bach's  Jesusminne. 

The  composer  did  not  hesitate  to  include  in  the  Mass  numerous 
'contrafacta'  of  movements  from  his  church  cantatas,  and  at  least  9  of  the 
24  numbers  of  the  score  are  remodelled  from  earlier  works  closely  related 
in  content.  Not  one  of  these  adaptations  is  mechanically  done;  indeed, 
each  of  them  shows  a  higher  degree  of  perfection  than  its  model.  The 
Expecto  resurrectionem  mortuorum  ('I  look  for  the  resurrection  of  the  dead') 
is  taken  from  Cantata  120,  Gott  man  lobet,  using  the  second  movement 
'Shout  ye,  all  ye  joyful  voices.'  While  the  orginal  contains  a  4-part  chorus 
only,  with  supreme  mastery  Bach  adds  a  fifth  obbligato  part,  which  in  a 
completely  natural  way  enriches  the  polyphonic  texture.  The  Crucifixus 
is  a  famous  example;  it  is  based  on  a  passacaglia  from  cantata  12,  JVeinen, 
Klagen,  and  was  given  its  exquisite  ending,  modulating  from  minor  to 
major,  only  in  the  Mass.  In  making  this  addition,  Bach  not  only  prepares 
for  the  glory  of  the  immediately  following  Etresurrexit  ('And  rose  again'); 
but  he  thus  has  13  variations  instead  of  the  original  12  and  so  symbolizes 
the  tragedy  by  that  ill-fated  number.1 

As  Bach  in  this  work  went  back  to  a  time  when  the  Christian  Church 
was  as  yet  undivided,  he  felt  the  inclusion  of  venerable  forms  of  the  past 
to  be  appropriate.  The  Credo,  for  instance,  in  its  first  and  last  sections  uses 
the  melodies  of  the  Gregorian  chant  in  grandiose  fugues  of  a  definitely 
antiquated  motet  character.  Moreover,  the  frequent  5 -part  choruses  and 
the  old-fashioned  alia  breve  rhythms  (4/2)  in  several  sections  enhance  the 
retrospective  aspect  of  this  music. 

On  the  other  hand  there  is  no  lack  of  contemporary  forms  either.  The 
Mass  contains  arias  equipped  with  the  coloraturas  of  the  Italian  opera,  and 
superb  duets  in  the  style  of  Agostino  Steffani.  These  numbers,  too,  afford 
a  deep  insight  into  Bach's  mentality.  In  the  duet  Et  in  unum  Dominum 
Jesum  Christum  filium  Dei  unigenitum  ('And  in  one  Lord,  Jesus  Christ, 
the  only-begotten  Son  of  God'),  the  mystic  unity  of  the  Father  and 
His  Son  Jesus  Christ  is  symbolized  by  an  imitation  in  unison  which 
presently  turns  into  a  canon  at  the  fourth.  The  gentle  duet  of  the  oboi 
d'amore  in  the  aria  No.  18  for  bass,  with  its  reference  to  unam  sanctam 
Catholicam  et  apostolicam  Ecclesiam  ('One  Holy  Catholic  and  Apostolic 
Church'),  is  particularly  beautiful.  Since  this  forms  part  of  the  Creed 

1  Smend  points  out  that  with  the  help  of  the  figure  alphabet  (cf.  p.  203)  the  word 
'Credo'  can  be  expressed  as  43.  It  is  significant  that  in  the  Credo  movement  of  Bach's  Mass 
the  word  'Credo'  appears  43  times. 

J.    SEBASTIAN   S    MASSES  241 

accepted  by  all  Christian  denominations,  it  might  well  be  that  the  peaceful 
dialogue  of  the  two  'love  oboes'  is  intended  to  signify  harmony  and  under- 
standing between  Catholics  and  Protestants. 

In  spite  of  heterogeneous  stylistic  elements  in  this  Mass,  Bach  succeeds 
in  giving  it  unity  and  cohesion.  It  is  true  that  the  original  score  consists  of 
four  sections.  The  composer  inscribed  as  Missa  the  Kyrie  and  Gloria 
which  he  handed  to  Augustus  III,  Elector  of  Saxony.  The  Credo  bears  in 
the  autograph  the  title  Symholum  Nicenum.  The  third  section  is  the 
Sanctus,  and  the  fourth  comprises  the  remaining  movements,  Osanna, 
Benedictus,  Agnus  Dei,  Dona  nobis  pacetn.  Each  of  the  first  three  sections 
shows  a  well-balanced  structure.  In  the  Symbolum  Nicenum,  for  instance, 
the  Crucifixus  is  the  'heart-piece.'  It  is  preceded  and  followed  by  a 
chorus  {Et  incarnatus  est,  Et  resurrexii).  These  3  numbers  are  flanked 
by  solo  pieces;  a  duet  and  an  aria  respectively.  At  the  beginning  of  the 
Symbolum,  and  at  the  end,  are  the  mighty  double  pillars  of  connected 
choruses,  in  each  of  which  Gregorian  chants  form  the  melodies  of  the 
first  half. 

Looking  at  the  work  as  a  whole,  we  find  that  the  name  of  Mass  in  B 
minor,  which  is  generally  used  in  modern  times,  is  not  justified.  The  com- 
position comprises  12  movements  in  D  and  only  5  in  b.  D  is  the  key  of 
the  jubilant,  resplendent  Gloria  and  of  the  majestic  Credo  (here  inter- 
mingled with  the  mixolydian  mode).  In  D  also  is  the  dazzling  Easter- 
piece  of  the  Resurrexit  and  the  awe-inspiring  Sanctus,  in  which  Heaven 
and  Earth  seem  to  resound  with  the  praise  of  the  Lord.  (The  six  parts  of 
this  chorus  may  have  been  inspired  by  the  six  wings  of  the  Seraphims  in 
Isaiah  vi.)  Each  section  of  the  whole  work  ends  in  D  and  all,  except  the 
first,  start  in  it.  The  predominance  of  this  brilliant  key  holds  the  individual 
sections  firmly  together.  To  this  should  be  added  the  fact  that  the  last 
number,  Dona  nobis  pacem  ('Grant  us  peace'),  uses  the  same  music  as  the 
chorus  Gratias  agimus  tibi  ('We  give  Thee  thanks'),  which  stands  in  the 
very  centre  of  the  Mass.  This  connection  is  of  more  than  musical  signi- 
ficance. Bach  felt  that  he  did  not  have  to  implore  his  maker  for  peace,  and 
instead  thanked  Him  for  granting  it  to  the  true  believer.  In  this  way  the 
composer  also  concluded  his  Mass  with  the  expression  of  gratitude  tradi- 
tional in  the  Lutheran  service. 

Owing  to  its  colossal  dimensions  this  work  fits  into  neither  the 
Protestant  nor  the  Catholic  church  service.  Yet  it  is  one  of  the  greatest 
manifestations  of  the  religious  spirit  and  belongs,  together  with  Beet- 
hoven's Missa  Solemnis,  to  the  immortal  documents  of  man's  quest  for 
the  eternal  truths. 

242  THE    BACH    FAMILY 



Organ  music  accompanied  Bach  throughout  his  whole  life.  Among  his 
earliest  compositions  were  works  for  the  'king  of  instruments'  and  his  last, 
which  the  master,  nearly  blind,  dictated  to  his  son-in-law,  Altnikol,  was 
an  organ  chorale.  Since  the  principal  aim  of  Bach's  art  was  to  magnify  the 
Lord,  the  organ  offered  him  the  most  direct  way  by  which  to  pursue  his 
goal,  without  the  co-operation  of  other  musicians.  Almost  every  one  of 
the  more  than  200  works  he  wrote  for  the  organ  was  designed  for 
liturgical  purposes. 

The  master's  contemporaries  held  him  in  awe  as  one  of  the  greatest 
virtuosi  on  the  organ.  They  eagerly  sought  his  advice  on  the  building 
of  new  and  the  remodelling  of  old  instruments.  Our  time  sees  in  Bach 
the  unmatched  master  of  organ  composition.  In  these  works,  16th-  and 
17th-century  music  reaches  its  climax,  while  later  generations  feebly 
attempted  to  regain  and  reproduce  parts  of  its  lost  grandeur. 

As  in  other  fields  of  Bach's  creative  output,  it  is  impossible  to  deter- 
mine the  exact  date  of  composition  of  most  of  his  organ  works.  Neverthe- 
less, the  stylistic  features  of  these  compositions  enable  us  to  establish 
certain  significant  patterns  for  each  of  his  creative  periods.  The  situation 
is  somewhat  complicated  by  the  fact  that  Bach  often  revised  and  rewrote 
organ  compositions  many  years  after  their  first  conception.  If  such  works 
reflect  the  features  of  the  period  in  which  they  received  their  final  form, 
they  will  be  discussed  with  the  compositions  of  that  phase. 

The  works  of  the  First  Creative  Period  axe  typical  of  a  young  composer 
who  is  trying  to  find  himself  and  to  master  the  intricacies  of  his  craft. 
Bach  was  always  eager  to  learn  from  others,  but  naturally  this  tendency 
was  never  as  apparent  and  predominant  as  in  the  works  of  his  youth. 
The  incipient  organist  studied  the  works  of  his  own  clan,  among  them 
especially  the  compositions  of  Johann  Christoph  (13)  and  Johann  Bern- 
hard  (18).  Next  to  his  relatives,  the  great  masters  of  keyboard  music  in 
Italy  and  Southern,  Central  and,  most  of  all,  Northern  Germany  were  his 
models.  He  copied  and  imitated  their  music,  sometimes  barely  reaching 
their  level,  and  only  rarely  surpassing  it.  His  musical  language  is  often 
voluble,  his  harmonic  and  polyphonic  technique  immature,  a  sense  of 
balance  and  form  as  yet  undeveloped.  It  is  typical  of  the  uneven  character 
of  Bach's  early  organ  works  that,  while  some  of  them  contain  very  diffi- 
cult and  brilliant  pedal  parts,  others  dispense  with  the  pedals  altogether. 

j.  Sebastian's  organ  works  (before   1708)         243 

Nevertheless  these  works  of  the  young  Bach  are  anything  but  unattractive. 
They  are  highly  emotional,  exuberant  and,  in  their  subjective  expressive- 
ness, typical  products  of  a  growing  young  genius.  Bach's  first  period 
shows  a  definite  resemblance  to  that  of  Brahms,  whose  early  compositions 
compensate  for  their  lack  of  formal  perfection  by  their  stirring  and 
passionate  content. 

There  are  two  main  groups  of  organ  works  by  Bach:  those  which  are 
freely  invented,  and  those  which  are  based  on  some  chorale.  The  former 
group  consists  of  a  number  of  Preludes  or  Toccatas  with  Following 
Fugues.  The  free  preludes  and  toccatas  frequently  reflect  the  brilliant 
Venetian  style  of  Merulo  and  the  Gabrielis,  which  was  passed  on  to  Bach 
through  the  fantastic  art  of  the  Liibeck  master,  Dietrich  Buxtehude,  and 
his  follower,  Georg  Bohm.  North  German  influence  may  also  be  detected 
in  the  loose  and  rhapsodic  construction  of  the  fugues.  Good  examples  of 
Bach's  Liineburg  period  (1700- 1703)  are  furnished  by  the  Preludes  and 
Fugues  in  a  andc  (P.  Ill/ 84  and  IV/36,  BWV  5  5 1,  549).  The  work  in  a  for 
instance  is  a  kind  of  toccata,  a  show-piece,  containing  in  its  middle  part 
two  fugal  sections.  The  brief  first  fugue,  consisting  of  17  bars  only,  uses 
a  gaily  rambling  theme  of  the  Buxtehude  type  (Ex.  43),  without  any 

■f-ftp  -f-p     f'Pf'f.f'.fBP* &+ f Mr* 

attempt  at  serious  elaboration.  The  second  fugue  seems  to  employ  a  new 
theme,  but  this  subject  is  accompanied  by  a  running  counter-melody  which, 
as  the  piece  proceeds,  gains  in  importance  and  at  the  same  time  increas- 
ingly resembles  the  theme  of  the  first  fugue.  Even  in  this  very  primitive 
composition,  Bach's  attempt  to  unify  the  different  sections  of  his  com- 
position is  apparent. 

An  effective  thematic  interrelation  between  three  successive  move- 
ments is  achieved  in  the  Fantasy  in  G  (P.  IX/25,  BWV  571).1  The  last 
movement  culminates  in  an  'ostinato'  figure  consisting  of  5  stepwise 
descending  notes,  which  appear  not  only  in  the  bass  but  also  in  the  soprano 

1  The  authenticity  of  the  Fantasy  has  been  doubted,  but  the  present  writer  feels 
inclined  to  consider  it  as  a  work  of  young  Bach.  Altogether  the  composer's  organ  music 
still  presents  unsolved  problems  in  this  respect.  Some  of  the  works  that  the  19th  century 
considered  as  compositions  by  Johann  Sebastian  are  recognized  to-day  as  the  works  of 
others,  while  in  several  cases  the  question  is  yet  unsetded.  The  organ  chorales  P.  VI/3  and 
62  {BWV  693,  748),  for  instance,  might  be  by  J.  G.  Walther.  The  chorale  partita 
BWV 771,  which  Hull  considered  one  of  the  finest  works  by  the  young  Bach,  is  in  all 
likelihood  by  A.  N.  Vetter,  while  P.  IX/38  {BWV  585)  and  P.  VIII/48  {BWV  553-60) 
are  probably  by  J.  L.  Krebs.  Cf.  Keller  in  BJ,  1937. 

244  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

and  alto  parts.  This  is  the  earliest  example  of  Bach's  use  of  a  technique 
that  was  to  reach  its  magnificent  climax  in  the  great  Passacaglia  in  c. 

The  Toccata  and  Fugue  in  d  (P.  IV/27,  BWV  565)  is  the  most 
striking  work  of  the  Arnstadt  period.1  Bach's  dependence  on  models  is  as 
easily  traceable  here  as  in  any  other  composition  of  his  first  period.  The 
toccata  sections  at  the  beginning  and  end  of  the  work  are  strongly  rhap- 
sodic. The  freely  flowing  fugue  in  the  centre  is  loosely  constructed  with 
runs  and  broken  chord  episodes  separating  the  different  entrances  of  the 
theme.  Obviously  Bach  wishes  to  maintain  the  predominant  character  of 
brilliant  improvisation  even  in  the  middle  section.  The  theme  seems  to  be 
inspired  by  a  technique  adopted  from  the  violin,  that  of  playing  simul- 
taneously on  two  neighbouring  strings,  a  procedure  Bach  was  often  to 
employ  in  his  music  for  keyboard  instruments.  The  Toccata's  torrents 
of  sound  and  dazzling  fireworks  have  made  Pirro  see  the  work  as  a  piece 
of  programme  music  describing  the  fury  of  the  elements  in  a  thunder- 
storm, yet  there  is  a  masterly  craftsmanship  underlying  all  this  outpouring 
of  the  emotions.  The  work  was  written  by  an  organist  who  had  so  deep  an 
insight  into  the  possibilities  of  his  instrument  that  he  was  able  to  produce 
the  most  powerful  effects  without  unduly  taxing  the  technical  abilities  of 
the  player.  In  its  intensity  and  exuberance  this  is  clearly  a  product  of  Bach's 
'Storm  and  Stress'  period,  but  there  is  no  youthful  groping  and  un- 
certainty in  it. 

Among  the  Organ  Chorales  of  the  first  period  three  main  types  may 
be  discerned:  (a)  the  chorale  fughetta  (short  fugue);  (b)  the  chorale- 
fantasy;  (c)  the  chorale  partita  (chorale  variations).  Some  of  the  Chorale 
Fughettas  closely  follow  earlier  models.  For  instance,  Herr  Jesu  Christ,  dich 
iu  uns  wend'  ('Lord  Jesus  Christ,  I  turn  to  Thee';  B  WV  749X2  which  treats 
the  hymn  tune  partly  as  a  fugal  subject  and  partly  as  a  basis  for  free  imita- 
tions, is  fashioned  after  the  arrangement  of  the  same  chorale  by  Johann 
Christoph  Bach.  Other  chorale  fughettas  introduce,  in  addition,  a 
counter-subject  that  is  preserved  throughout  the  whole  prelude,  thus 
firmly  linking  together  the  different  sections  of  the  work.  In  Vom  Himmel 
hoch  ('From  Heaven  above';  P.  VII/54,  BWV  701),  for  instance,  the 
chorale  melody  is  accompanied  by  a  running  counter-subject  (Ex.  44) 
which  is  maintained  all  through  the  composition,  possibly  to  express  the 
fluttering  of  the  angels'  wings  in  this  Christmas  prelude.3 

1  It  seems  more  likely  that  the  work  was  written  in  Arnstadt  rather  than  in  Weimar, 
as  some  scholars  have  assumed. 

2  Cf.  also  BJVV-7-yO  and  756. 

3  Somewhat  similar  in  construction  are  the  Fughettas  P.  V/7,  18,  20,  23,  39,  43  {BWV 
696-99,  703,  704). 

j.  Sebastian's  organ  works  (before   1708)         245 

In  his  chorale  fughettas,  as  in  various  organ  works  of  his  youth,  Bach 
omits  the  pedal  altogether;  and  a  very  modest  use  of  the  pedal  may  also 


be  observed  in  the  only  Chorale  Fantasy  he  ever  wrote,  based  on  Christ 
lag  in  Todesbanden  ('Christ  lay  in  Death's  dark  prison';  P.  VI/15,  BWV 
718).  This  type  of  composition,  which  deals  with  the  complete  melody 
of  the  chosen  hymn,  treating  each  verse  in  a  different  manner,  was  a 
favourite  with  North  German  masters,  whereas  Johann  Christoph  Bach 
and  Pachelbel  ignored  it.  The  direct  model  for  Sebastian's  chorale  fantasy 
was  one  composed  by  Georg  Bohm  on  the  same  melody;1  however,  it  is 
also  easy  to  detect  references  to  the  style  of  two  masters  from  Liibeck. 
Sebastian  starts  with  a  richly  ornamented  treatment  of  the  first  two  lines 
of  the  chorale;  the  third  line  he  develops  as  a  brief  fugato,  the  fourth  as  a 
kind  of  gigue  in  12/8  time  in  imitation  of  similar  movements  by  Buxte- 
hude,  and  in  the  fifth  line  he  uses  the  mystical  echo-like  effects  so  dear 
to  Buxtehude's  father-in-law,  Franz  Tunder. 

On  a  much  larger  scale  than  the  chorale  fughettas  and  the  fantasy  are 
the  highly  imaginative  and  exuberant  Partite  Diverse,  for  which  Johann 
Bernhard  Bach's  (cf.  p.  100)  and  Georg  Bohm's  Partite  seem  to  have  been 
the  direct  models.  Sebastian's  variations  on  Christ,  der  du  bist  der  helle  Tag 
('0  Christ  who  art  the  Light  of  Day';  P.  V/60,  BWV  766)  and  0  Gott,  du 
frommer  Gott  ('0  God,  Thou  Holy  God';  P.  V/68,  BWV  767)  bear  all  the 
traces  of  an  early  origin.  The  pedal  is  only  rarely  used  and  then  ad  libitum, 
and  the  harmonization  of  the  chorale  melody  is  at  its  beginning  rather 
clumsy,  with  frequent  repetitions  of  tonic  and  dominant  and  heavy  5- 
and  6-part  chords  on  the  weak  beat  (Ex.  45).  Sei  gegriisset,  Jesu  giitig 

Xx  hs   0  Qott,  du  frommer  Gott 

(Thee  I  greet,  Thy  love  I  treasure';  P.  V/76,  BWV  768)  which  may 
have  originated  in  the  same  period,  clearly  shows  traces  of  a  later  revision; 

1  Samtliche  Werke,  Leipzig,  Breitkopf  &  Hartel,  1927,  vol.  II,  p.  98. 

246  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

it  displays  the  youthful  fervour  of  the  other  sets,  but  is  not  marred  by 
their  weaknesses. 

During  the  nine  years  the  composer  spent  in  Weimar  (1708-17),  he 
was  primarily  an  organist,  and  the  majority  of  his  organ  compositions 
were  written  or  at  least  conceived  there.  This  Second  Creative  Period  was  a 
typical  phase  of  transition.  Bach's  output  comprised  a  substantial  number 
of  studies  and  transcriptions,  which  served  him  as  a  means  of  widening 
his  artistic  horizon  and  of  becoming  fully  conversant  with  new  types  of 
musical  expression.  But  towards  the  end  of  this  period  the  composer 
gained  such  stylistic  perfection  that  it  is  often  difficult  to  draw  the  line, 
and  to  determine  whether  a  given  organ  composition  belongs  to  this 
phase  or  to  the  following  period  of  full  maturity. 

In  Weimar  Bach  was  at  first  a  student  of  the  Italians.  In  Liineburg  and 
Arnstadt  their  works  had  reached  him  only  in  versions  transformed  and 
remodelled  by  German  composers.  In  Weimar  he  had  the  chance  of 
making  a  direct  study  of  their  compositions.  The  effect  on  Bach  was 
somewhat  similar  to  that  which  Italian  art  had  exercised  on  the  foremost 
German  painter,  Albrecht  Diirer.  The  serene  and  well-balanced  works  of 
the  Adriatic  peninsula  helped  the  two  masters  to  find  themselves.  They 
discarded  the  excessive  harshness  and  angularity  of  the  North,  and  re- 
placed it  by  a  plastic  clarity  and  a  simple  structure.  Eventually  Bach 
completely  assimilated  Italian  music,  and,  by  fusing  it  with  his  own 
contrapuntal  heritage  and  the  Northern  idiom,  he  created  what  we  now 
regard  as  the  typical  Bach  style. 

The  transcriptions  and  studies  of  the  Weimar  period  begin  with  a 
number  of  Arrangements  of  Violin  Concertos  both  for  the  clavier  and  for 
the  organ.  Apparently  Bach  was  encouraged  to  do  this  work  by  studying 
similar  arrangements  which  his  friend  and  relative,  the  organist  J.  Georg 
Walther,  made  at  about  that  time  in  Weimar.  Bach  transcribed  for  the  organ 
one  concerto  and  a  separate  movement  {P.  VIII/2,  44;  BWV  592,  595) 
written  by  the  talented  Prince  Johann  Ernst  of  Weimar,  himself  a  faithful 
disciple  of  the  Italians,  as  well  as  three  concerti  by  Vivaldi  (P.  VIII/10,  22; 
the  third  arrangement  is  usually  printed  under  the  name  of  Friedemann 
Bach;  BWV 593,  594,  596).1  As  a  rule  Sebastian  adheres  faithfully  to  the 

1  Friedemann  wrote  on  the  title-page  of  Sebastian's  autograph:  'di  W.  F.  Bach,  manu 
mei  patris  descript.'  (by  W.  F.  Bach,  copied  by  my  father).  The  actual  facts  were  clarified 
by  Max  Schneider  in  BJ,  191 1. 

j.  Sebastian's  organ  works  (1708-1717) 


text  of  the  original  composition.  He  was  strongly  impressed  by  the 
natural  grace  of  the  Italian  style  and  fascinated  by  the  results  that  could 
be  achieved  by  using  Vivaldi's  Concerto  form  in  a  work  for  organ  solo. 
These  transcriptions  also  confirmed  his  conviction  that  the  violin  idiom 
could  be  employed  to  good  advantage  in  keyboard  compositions.  At  the 
same  time  it  is  obvious  that  Bach  had  no  intention  of  mechanically  trans- 
ferring into  his  works  every  note  of  his  model.  His  new  versions  strengthen 
the  harmony  and  introduce — particularly  in  the  middle  parts  and  bass — 
small  rhythmical  and  contrapuntal  details  which  lend  significance  to  the 
composition  (Ex.  46).  In  the  C  major  Concerto  Bach  went  even  further; 



The  large  notes  represent  VrtaWf  5  origins^  ihesmtflona  23cKs  additions. 

In  tie  first  mtaiure  Bac7i  replaced  the  (_' Urge)  eighth  noitc  e!  TinUihy  (emill)  sixteenth,  Tides. 

he  made  considerable  changes  in  the  cadenzas  of  the  first  and  third  move- 
ments, and  replaced  the  middle  movement  by  a  kind  of  German  toccata. 

Another  type  of  work  following  Italian  models  may  be  found  in  the 
Allabreve  (P.  VIII/72,  BWV  589)  and  particularly  in  the  Caniona  in  d 
(P.  IV/58,  BWV  588).  These  are  works  reflecting  the  influence  of  the 
great  Italian  organ  master  Frescobaldi  whose  Fiori  Musicali  Bach  copied 
in  1714.  Both  the  principle  of  thematic  variation  employed  in  the  Caniona 
and  the  quiet,  dignified  and  solemn  mood  of  the  Allabreve  are  obviously 
inspired  by  the  Roman  composer.  The  first  movement  of  the  well-known 
Pastorale  in  F  (P.  1/88,  BWV  590)  also  belongs  to  the  same  category. 
This  piece  (probably  unfinished,  since  it  begins  in  F  and  ends  in  a),  with 
its  long  pedal  points,  its  gentle  and  lyric  character,  and  the  12/8  Siciliano 
rhythm,  reflects  the  spirit  that  can  be  found  in  countless  Italian  musical 
descriptions  of  the  Nativity. 

In  both  clavier  and  organ  compositions  of  this  period  Bach  occasion- 
ally used  Italian  themes.  A  Fugue  in  c  (P.  IV/40,  BWV  574)  has  the  title 
'Thema  Legrenzianum  elaboratum  . . .  per  J.  S.  Bach  '  while  his  Fugue  in 
b  {P.  IV/50,  BWV  579)  makes  use  of  a  theme  by  Corelli.1  Bach's  com- 

1  The  source  of  the  theme  by  Legrenzi  (1626- 1690)  has  not  yet  been  found;  the 
Corelli  arrangement  is  based  on  the  second  movement  of  the  composer's  op.  III/4. 

248  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

position  is  almost  three  times  as  long  as  Corelli's  and  employs  four  parts 
instead  of  the  three  in  his  model.  Nevertheless  it  is  easily  understandable 
that  the  simple  and  plastic  theme  of  the  Roman  master  {Ex.  47)  fascinated 

the  young  composer.  Preoccupation  with  such  music  helped  Bach  to 
develop  the  expressive  architecture  of  his  later  fugue  themes. 

As  to  works  which  are  neither  transcriptions  nor  based  on  a  specific 
model,  the  first  results  of  Bach's  study  of  Italian  music  may  be  detected  in 
a  number  of  compositions  which  contain  Southern  and  Northern  elements 
in  rather  primitive  juxtaposition.  The  Toccata  and  Fugue  in  C  (P.  III/72, 
BWV  564)  belongs  to  this  group  as  it  combines  the  style  of  the  German 
toccata  with  that  of  the  Italian  concerto.  The  middle  movement,  which 
follows  the  bravura  passages  of  the  toccata,  contains  one  of  the  sweetest 
and  most  poignant  cantilenas  Bach  ever  wrote.  In  this  piece  the  master 
obviously  had  in  mind  a  long-drawn-out  violin  solo  of  the  kind  to  be 
found  as  second  movement  in  a  concerto. 

A  number  of  preludes  and  toccatas  written  during  the  later  part  of  the 
Weimar  period  reveal  the  process  of  simplification  resulting  from  Bach's 
study  of  Italian  models.  The  Dorian  Toccata)-  (P.  III/30,  BWV  538),  for 
instance,  no  longer  shows  the  abundant  contrasts  of  the  North  German 
type.  The  whole  powerful  piece  grows  out  of  a  simple  motive  which  is 
stated  in  the  first  half-measure,  and  elements  of  which  may  be  found  in 
almost  every  one  of  its  measures.  The  well-planned  modulations  and  Bach's 
art  of  melodic  evolution  protect  the  work  from  any  danger  of  monotony. 
Like  the  preludes,  the  fugues  of  this  phase  are  less  brilliant  but  more 
solidly  built,  discarding  more  and  more  the  running  motion  of  the  North 
German  toccata  fugue.  Bach  likes  to  augment  the  variety  in  these  fugues 
by  introducing  into  the  middle  sections  new  ideas  to  which  he  attaches 
varying  degrees  of  importance.  The  energetic  Fugue  in  c  (P.  Ill/  5  5,  BWV 
537),  for  instance,  brings  into  its  development  section  a  chromatically 
ascending  counter-melody  which  for  a  time  even  displaces  the  main  sub- 
ject, and  only  in  the  final  climax  does  it  give  way  to  the  original  theme. 
Similar  ternary  constructions  were  used  by  the  mature  Bach  in  the  re- 
modelling of  many  of  the  Weimar  works.2 

1  The  designation  is  due  to  the  fact  that  this  composition  in  d  has,  according  to  the 
Dorian  church  mode,  no  flat  in  its  signature. 

2  Owing  to  Bach's  tendency  to  rearrange  his  Weimar  works,  the  autographs,  generally 
supposed  to  reflect  a  composer's  intentions  in  their  purest  form,  have  at  times  to  be 

j.   Sebastian's  organ  works  (1708-1717)  249 

Probably  the  best  known  of  the  organ  works  of  the  second  period  is 
the  Passacaglia  in  c  (P.  I/76,  BWV  582).1  Bach  found  the  first  half  of 
the  theme  for  this  work  in  the  Trio  en  Passacaille  by  the  French  organ 
master,  Andre  Raison  (1650-1720),  and  the  formal  model  in  similar  works 
by  Buxtehude.  The  idea  of  using  mathematical  patterns  as  a  basis  for 
musical  construction  was  also  familiar  to  the  Baroque  period.  In  spite  of 
such  easily  traceable  relationships,  Bach's  work  is  unique.  Its  theme,  com- 
prising eight  measures  instead  of  the  traditional  four,  shows  a  dignity, 
strength,  and  intensity  which  make  it  well  suited  for  further  treatment. 
The  twenty  variations  of  the  set  are  divided  into  two  groups  of  ten.  Each 
of  these  shows  in  its  turn  a  clear  separation  into  subgroups  of  five.  Even 
within  those  subgroups  a  further  organization  may  be  observed.  As  a  rule 
the  first  two  of  the  five  variations  are  rhythmically  connected,  forming  a 
pair,  and  the  same  is  true  of  the  last  two,  while  the  third  variation  stands 
alone.  Only  the  fourth  subgroup  (var.  16-20)  presents  a  slightly  different 
aspect.  It  appears  like  a  condensed  recapitulation  of  the  first  ten  varia- 
tions,2 with  the  result  that  the  passacaglia  as  a  whole  displays  the  same 
tripartite  construction  that  can  be  found  within  each  subgroup.  With  the 
majestic  ending  of  No.  20,  Bach  exhausted  all  possibilities  of  the  variation 
form,  but  instead  of  concluding,  he  decided  to  carry  on  in  a  different 
manner.  In  the  fugue  following  the  passacaglia  he  employed  only  the  first 
four  measures  of  the  theme,  but  he  adorned  Raison's  melody  with  a 
counterpoint  that  remains  all  through  the  fugue  as  the  subject's  faithful 
companion.  As  always,  Bach  drew  the  strongest  possible  inspiration  from 
the  apparently  barren  soil  of  self-imposed  restrictions  and  limitations. 
What  in  the  hands  of  a  smaller  mind  might  have  developed  into  a  sterile 
mathematical  tour  de  force,  was  transformed  by  him  into  an  immortal 
creation;  the  technical  mastery  is  as  nothing  compared  to  the  power  and 
magnificence  of  Bach's  inspiration. 

In  the  field  of  the  organ  chorale,  Bach's  main  work  of  the  second 
period  was  the  so-called  Orgelbiichlein  (Little  organ  book;  P.  V,  BWV 
599-644).  It  seems  that  he  was  engaged  on  this  extensive  composition 

subordinated  to  a  source  of  less  importance,  such  as  a  copy  made  by  someone  else.  In  the 
case  of  Bach  the  version  that  counts  most  is  the  one  which,  according  to  our  knowledge  of 
the  master's  style,  represents  the  composer's  intentions  in  their  most  mature  form. 

1  The  common  conception  that  this  work  was  originally  written  for  a  clavier 
equipped  with  pedal  can  no  longer  be  upheld.  Cf.  Kinsky,  'Pedalklavier  oder  Orgel  bei 
Bach,'  Acta  Musicologica,  1936. 

2  No.  16,  in  its  partly  harmonic  character,  is  reminiscent  of  No.  1,  while  18  is 
rhythmically  related  to  4;  the  contrasting  No.  17  helps  to  reproduce  the  three-sectional 
organization  of  the  first  subgroup.  Nos.  19,  20  are  rhythmically  related  to  the  variations 
of  the  second  subgroup. 

250  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

during  the  last  years  he  spent  in  Weimar,  penning  it  in  two  versions  that 
differ  in  parts;  but  he  did  not  complete  it  after  he  had  moved  to  Cothen.1 
Bach  had  originally  planned  this  work  on  a  very  large  scale.  It  was  to 
comprise  164  chorales,  the  names  of  which  the  composer  wrote  at  the 
top  of  the  empty  pages,  arranging  them  in  the  order  in  which  they  were 
to  be  employed  during  the  liturgical  year.  However,  more  than  two 
thirds  of  the  sheets  remained  unused,  since  Bach  discontinued  his  work 
after  completing  46  arrangements  (4  for  Advent,  13  for  Christmas  and 
New  Year,  13  for  Holy  Week  and  Easter,  and  16  for  other  events  of  the 
church  year). 

According  to  the  autograph  title-page  the  Orgelbiichlein  was  designed 
for  the  'incipient  organist,'  who  should  learn  how  'to  develop  a  chorale 
in  sundry  ways  and  at  the  same  time  perfect  himself  in  the  use  of  the 
pedal  which  is  treated  here  as  an  obbligato.  To  the  glory  of  God  in  the 
heights,  to  the  instruction  of  the  fellow-man.'  At  about  that  time  Bach 
had  several  gifted  pupils,  and  he  was  becoming  more  and  more  interested 
in  the  problem  of  how  to  pass  on  his  craft  to  others.  The  Orgelbiichlein  is 
the  earliest  in  a  long  row  of  important  educational  compositions. 

This  work  is  typical  of  Bach's  period  of  transition.  The  chorales  are 
presented  in  a  simple  and  concise  way;  introductions  or  interludes  are 
dispensed  with;  and,  as  a  rule,  the  soprano  offers  an  unadorned  version 
of  the  chorale  melody,  which  is  supported  by  the  three  lower  voices  with 
consummate  contrapuntal  mastery.  The  same  rhythmical  pattern  is  main- 
tained throughout  each  arrangement;  thus  Bach  obtains  a  form  resembling 
an  individual  variation  in  a  chorale  partita.  This  leaning  towards  the 
chorale  variation  is,  as  we  saw,  a  feature  of  Bach's  early  organ  works. 
Another  youthful  characteristic  is  the  subjectivism  in  the  interpretation 
of  the  chorale  melodies.  Bach  often  expresses  in  the  three  lower  parts  a 
fervour  and  intensity  of  feeling,  of  which  only  the  young  are  capable.  On 
the  other  hand,  the  extreme  economy  of  the  musical  language,  so  widely 
different  from  the  inexperienced  organist's  volubility  that  perplexed  his 
Arnstadt  congregation,  and  the  superb  craftsmanship  displayed  in  the 
strictly  polyphonic  treatment  of  the  lower  voices,  show  the  composer  to 
be  close  to  his  period  of  maturity.  With  supreme  craftsmanship  he  succeeds 
within  the  extremely  limited  space  available,  both  in  presenting  the  chorale 
melody  and  in  interpreting  the  emotional  content  inherent  in  the  text. 

Johann  Gotthelf  Ziegler,  who  studied  with  Bach  in  Weimar,  has  re- 

1  Rust's  theory  (BG,  XXV/2),  recently  upheld  by  Gurlitt  and  Bukofzer,  that  the 
Orgelbiichlein  was  mainly  a  product  of  the  Cothen  period,  does  not  seem  convincing  to  the 
present  writer. 

j.  Sebastian's  organ  works  (1708-1717)  251 

corded  a  very  significant  piece  of  advice  given  by  his  master  on  the  per- 
formance of  chorales:  the  pupil  should  not  merely  concentrate  on  the 
melody,  but  should  also  express  the  'affections'  (the  emotional  content) 
of  the  text.  The  Orgelbiichlein  clearly  illustrates  what  Bach  had  in  mind. 
In  0  Lamm  Gottes  ('0  Lamb  of  God')  the  succession  of  'sighs'  (descend- 
ing appoggiaturas)  in  the  accompanying  parts,  and  the  wailing  chromatic 
progressions  in  Das  alte  Jahr  vergangen  ist  ('The  old  year  is  past')  both 
create  an  atmosphere  of  poignant  sadness,  while  the  running  triplets  in 
In  dulci  jubilo  and  the  skipping  rhythm  in  Mit  Fried'  una1  Freud?  ichfahr' 
dahin  ('In  peace  and  joy  I  go  my  way')  express  happy  confidence.  Perhaps 
the  most  deeply  stirring  of  these  chorales  is  0  Mensch,  bewein  dein 
Siinde  gross  ('0  man,  thy  grievous  sin  bemoan')  in  which  Bach,  near  the 
end,  inspired  by  the  final  words  of  the  text  'In  sacrifice  miraculous  He 
shed  His  precious  blood  for  us,  upon  the  cross  suspended,'  unfolds  both 
the  drama  of  Golgotha  and  its  message  of  redemption.  Particularly 
striking  is  a  chorale  in  which  at  first  sight  Bach  seems  to  have  misinter- 
preted the  text.  In  Alle  Menschen  milssen  sterben  ('Every  mortal  must 
perish')  the  dance-like  rhythm  of  the  bass  produces  a  serene  atmosphere 
only  to  be  explained  by  the  vision  of  eternal  life  evoked  near  the  end  of 
the  text:  'There  the  faithful  souls  will  see  God's  transcendent  majesty.' 
Following  a  general  trend  of  his  time,  Bach  sometimes  evolves  motives 
out  of  pictorial  references  in  the  text.  In  Durch  Adam's  Fall  ('Old  Adam's 
fall'),  the  interval  of  a  descending  diminished  seventh  in  the  bass  describes 
the  sinful  fall,  while  an  undulating  alto  voice  symbolizes  the  snake  in 
paradise  (Ex.  48).  Nine  of  the  finest  arrangements  are  treated  canonically, 

(  JTenorvoice  omiHed ) 

among  them  five  at  the  interval  of  an  octave  and  four  at  that  of  a  fifth. 
There  is  a  certain  symbolism  in  this  technique,  most  clearly  apparent  in 
In  dulci  jubilo,  where  the  canon  is  inspired  by  the  words  'Trahe  me  post  te' 
('Draw  me  after  Thee')  in  the  second  verse.  Similarly  in  the  chorale  Hilf, 
Gott,  dass  mir's  geling'  ('Lord,  help  me  to  succeed')  the  imitation  of  Christ 
is  symbolized  through  a  canon  of  the  fifth.  Dies  sinddie  heil'gen  ^ehn  Gebot' 
('These  are  the  holy  ten  Commandments')  belongs  to  the  few  chorales  in 
the  Orgelbiichlein  in  which  the  counterpoint  to  the  hymn  tune  is  not  freely 

252  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

invented,  but,  following  the  earlier  organ  chorale  tradition,  is  derived 
from  the  melody  of  the  cantus  firmus.  It  is  characteristic  of  the  pleasure 
Bach  takes  in  numerical  symbolization  that  the  motive  of  the  counter- 
point appears  exactly  ten  times  in  its  original  version.1 

In  his  subsequent  chorale  arrangements  Bach  no  longer  used  the 
method  employed  in  the  Orgelbiichlein.  The  subjective  song-like  treat- 
ment of  the  sacred  tune,  which  is  presented  in  unaugmented  notes  in  the 
soprano,  may  later  have  seemed  too  intimate  to  him.  Possibly  this  was 
one  of  the  reasons  why  he  left  the  work  unfinished.  His  way  of  giving  a 
uniform  accompaniment  to  the  simple  melodies  was  to  be  taken  up,  how- 
ever, in  the  romantic  Lied  of  the  following  century. 

Of  the  organ  works  of  Bach's  Third  Creative  Period  only  very  few 
were  written  in  Cothen  (1717-23).  Possibly  the  best  known  product  of 
these  years  is  the  Fantasy  and  Fugue  in  g  (P.  11/ 26,  BWV  542)  written 
for  the  visit  to  Hamburg  in  1720.  In  its  whole  conception  the  piece  was 
well  suited  to  impress  old  Reinken,  one  of  the  chief  adjudicators  for  the 
position  in  which  Bach  was  interested.  The  Fantasy  is  a  chromatic  toccata 
somewhat  reminiscent  of  the  rhapsodic  North  German  style.  The  fugue 
has  a  long-drawn-out  and  gay  theme  closely  related  to  an  old  Dutch  folk- 
song and  at  the  same  time  to  a  piece  by  Reinken  himself  (Hortus  Musicus, 
Sonata  V).  In  spite  of  its  great  dimensions  the  work  is  well  organized  and 
clearly  proportioned.  In  its  happy  and  powerful  character  it  voices  the 
feelings  of  the  genius  in  his  early  manhood.  Old  Reinken  may  have 
blinked  when  confronted  with  the  cascades  of  pedal  passages,  or  the 
sequence  of  more  than  30  chords  in  inversion,  presented  in  a  tornado  of 
sixteenth  notes.  Another  composition  which  Bach  may  have  written  or 
revised  for  his  Hamburg  visit  is  his  five-part  arrangement  with  double 
pedal  of  An  Wasserfliissen  Babylons  ('By  the  waters  of  Babylon';  P.  VI/ 
1 2cz,  BWV  65  3$).  Its  rich  colouristic  treatment  and  the  brilliant  double- 
pedal  technique  show  Bach  as  a  follower  of  North  German  masters, 
particularly  Buxtehude.  The  same  hymn  tune  was  used  by  Bach  for  his 
famous  improvisation  which  impressed  Reinken  so  deeply. 

1  Schweitzer  is  mistaken  when  he  points  out  (I.e.,  453)  that  the  first  section  of  the 
melody  occurs  10  times  in  the  pedal.  Actually  it  appears  there  only  3  times.  However, 
this  melody-fragment  is  used  10  times  (on  tonic,  subdominant,  and  dominant)  in  the  3 
lower  voices  accompanying  the  chorale  melody.  In  each  repetition  the  intervals  of  the 
first  statement  are  carefully  preserved.  Only  the  very  last  statement  in  the  pedal  bass  is 
slighdy  changed  so  as  to  produce  the  final  cadence. 

j.   Sebastian's  organ  works  (1717-1723)  253 

A  third  product  of  this  period  is  the  Fugue  in  d  (P.  III/42,  BWV  ^(f) 
based  on  the  master's  own  fugue  in  g  for  solo  violin.1  Although  the  style 
of  the  model  is  completely  idiomatic  and  displays  the  deepest  insight  into 
the  possibilities  of  the  violin,  Bach  preserved  the  bulk  of  the  original  com- 
position, making  only  such  additions  as  were  necessary  to  transform  the 
work  into  an  organ  fugue.  To  this  end,  the  harmonic  and  polyphonic 
texture  is  intensified  {Ex.  49),  there  are  new  entrances  of  the  theme,  a  bass 

JTx.  1*9 


Tht  7±rgc  notes  in  the  upper  line  art  Also  to  ot  found  iniht  violinveraion  (thtrt  iJigyorc  <%  four  ihhi for, 
The.  smtfl  neUa  in  the  7ovtr  line  are  Additions  of  the  organ-arrangement. 

part  is  supplemented,  and  mock  imitations  of  the  original  are  replaced  by 
real  imitations.  The  result  is  a  piece  written  almost  as  well  for  the  organ 
as  the  model  was  for  the  violin. 

These  few  works  conceived  in  Cothen  already  give  a  good  idea  of 
the  artistic  goal  that  Bach  was  to  pursue  in  the  great  organ  works  written 
(or  finished)  in  Leipzig.  He  aimed  at  cohesion  and  unification  within  each 
work,  even  though  its  dimensions  were  increased;  he  strove  for  greater 
technical  proficiency,  particularly  in  the  use  of  polyphonic  devices;  and 
he  tried  to  enrich  the  organ's  idiom  by  the  introduction  of  elements  from 
other  fields  of  music.  Each  of  these  features  can  occasionally  be  found  in 
Bach's  earlier  works.  What  is  new,  however,  is  the  intensity  and  the  pro- 
digious success  with  which  the  composer  applied  them  in  his  Leipzig  years. 

Such  tendencies  are  clearly  revealed  in  the  Toccata  in  F  (P.  Ill/ 16, 
BWV  540)  which  precedes  an  earlier  fugue  in  the  same  key.  In  this  com- 
position the  fantastic  and  improvisatory  character  of  former  toccatas  is 
completely  discarded.  There  is  an  introductory  section  over  an  organ 
point  followed  by  a  long-drawn-out  pedal  solo;  the  whole  section  is  then 
restated,  and  transposed  to  the  dominant,  thus  bringing  the  exposition 
to  an  end.  The  following  section,  a  sort  of  development,  clearly  consists 
of  four  corresponding  subdivisions.  A  third  part,  resembling  a  restate- 
ment of  the  first  section,  leads  to  another  pedal  point  supporting  a  figura- 
tion in  which  the  ascending  motive  of  the  beginning  is  inverted.  In  spite 
of  its  gigantic  dimensions — the  piece  has  more  than  400  measures — the  dis- 
position of  the  material  is  unusually  lucid.  The  work  is  a  miracle  of  logical 
and  well-balanced  construction. 

1  The  fugue  also  exists  in  a  version  for  lute  (BJVV  iooo). 

254  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

How  important  it  was  at  that  time  for  Bach  to  round  off  his  musical 
forms  can  be  shown  by  the  Prelude  in  C  (P.  11/ 2,  BWV  545)  which  also 
exists  in  an  earlier  version.  In  the  final  arrangement  Bach  added  a  little 
introduction  of  3  measures  which  he  repeated  at  the  end  of  the  work, 
thus  producing  a  ternary  form. 

Three-part  construction  is  also  to  be  found  in  the  fugues  of  the 
Leipzig  period,  and  this  to  an  even  greater  extent  by  far  than  in  the 
Weimar  works.  One  of  the  best  known  compositions  of  the  Thomas 
Cantor  is  the  Fugue  in  e  {P.  11/ 64,  BWV  548),  named  in  the  English- 
speaking  countries  'the  wedge,'  since  its  theme,  containing  one  ascending 
and  one  descending  line,  gradually  widens  from  the  interval  of  a  third  to 
an  octave.  This  composition,  conceived  on  a  very  large  scale,  exhibits  in 
the  middle  a  free  toccata  section  of  more  than  100  measures,  after  which 
the  first  part  is  restated  without  modification. 

The  influence  of  other  forms  is  often  noticeable  in  the  Leipzig  organ 
works.  In  the  stirring  Prelude  in  b  (P.  II/78,  BWV  544)  the  melodic  lead 
is  given  to  the  upper  part,  while  middle  voices  and  bass  all  participate  in 
the  imitations.  This  prelude  shows  melodic  features  of  an  aria  in  which 
elements  of  the  main  tune  are  taken  up  in  a  fugue-like  manner  by  the 
lower  parts.  The  introduction  of  foreign  elements  into  organ  music  is 
particularly  obvious  in  the  6  Sonatas  or  Trios  (P.  I,  BWV  525-30)  which 
Bach  wrote  after  1727  (or  possibly  after  1723)  mainly  for  the  instruction 
of  his  son  Friedemann.  It  is  not  quite  certain  whether  he  had  the  organ 
or  a  pedal  clavier  with  2  manuals  primarily  in  mind  for  these  compositions, 
since  the  title  'for  two  claviers  and  pedal'  is  ambiguous.  These  sonatas 
undoubtedly  make  excellent  exercises  for  developing  the  complete  in- 
dependence of  the  organist's  hands  and  feet.  At  the  same  time  the  lack 
of  a  truly  idiomatic  organ  style  can  hardly  be  overlooked.  The  thematic 
elaboration  is  that  of  the  trio  sonata  for  one  or  two  solo  instruments  with 
basso  continuo;  the  three  parts  of  the  trio  sonata  are  never  augmented  or 
reduced,  and  the  model  of  the  concerto  plays  a  large  part  in  the  formal 
construction.  Bach  himself  used  the  adagio  of  the  third  sonata  as  a  slow 
movement  for  his  Concerto  in  a  for  flute,  violin,  and  harpsichord,  and  the 
first  movement  of  the  fourth  sonata  can  be  found  scored  for  oboe 
d'amore,  viola  da  gamba,  and  continuo  in  his  Cantata  No.  76.  In  either 
case  the  composer  employed  two  melody  instruments  and  continuo  for 
the  interpretation  of  his  ideas.  More  recently,  the  trios  have  been  edited  by 
R.  Todt  in  a  version  for  violin,  viola,  and  clavier,1  and  it  is  debatable 

1  Naumann  and  David  arranged  them  for  violin  and  piano,  thus  imitating  Bach's 
procedure  in  his  trios  for  violin  and  clavier  or  viola  da  gamba  and  clavier. 

j.  Sebastian's  organ  works  (1723-1740)  255 

whether  such  arrangements  are  not  better  suited  to  revealing  the  intricate 
beauties  of  these  superb  works  than  Bach's  own  setting  for  the  organ. 

Bach's  earliest  organ  work  to  appear  in  print  was  published  in  1739 
under  the  title  'Third  part  of  the  Clavier  Ubung  (keyboard  exercise), 
consisting  of  sundry  preludes  on  the  catechism  and  other  hymns  for  the 
organ  written  for  the  enjoyment  of  amateurs  and  in  particular  for  the 
connoisseurs  of  such  work.'  The  collection  begins  with  a  Prelude  in  E 
flat  (P.  Ill/ 2;  BWV  552)  which  is  obviously  connected  with  the  so- 
called  St.  Anne  or  Trinity  Fugue  printed  in  the  same  volume  as  its  last 
number.  Although  twenty-one  organ  chorales  separate  the  two  move- 
ments, they  are  linked  together  by  the  symbolic  emphasis  on  the  number 
three,  employed  as  a  reference  to  the  Holy  Trinity.  Both  the  prelude  and 
the  fugue  require  three  flats,  and  each  consists  of  three  main  sections  and 
uses  three  themes.1  In  between  the  two  powerful  tuttis  of  the  beginning 
and  the  end,  the  prelude  introduces  two  different  subjects  which  are 
presented  alternately  with  the  main  idea.  In  the  fugue,  one  of  the  most 
dazzling  works  of  the  kind  Bach  ever  wrote,  thematic  variation  plays  a 
big  role.  Each  of  the  three  sections  in  this  movement  has  a  subject  of  its 
own,  but  the  second  and  third  sections  employ  in  addition  a  rhythmic 
alteration  of  the  first  theme  in  contrapuntal  combination  with  their  own 
ideas.  Perhaps  the  clearest  expression  of  the  symbolic  meaning  in  the 
'Trinity  fugue'  can  be  found  in  the  three  versions  of  the  same  main  theme 
used  here. 

The  collection  of  chorale  preludes  contained  in  the  Clavier  Ubung 
(P.  Ill,  V-VTI;  BWV  669-89)  supplements,  in  a  way,  the  earlier  one  of 
the  Orgelhilchlein.  Whereas  the  Weimar  preludes  deal  only  with  chorales 
for  the  different  holy  days  of  the  church  year,  the  Clavier  Ubung  contains 
arrangements  of  German  hymns  corresponding  to  sections  of  the  Ordi- 
narium  Missae.  The  hymns  are  presented  in  an  order  similar  to  that  of  the 
Lutheran  catechism,  and  as  Luther  compiled  two  versions  of  the  cate- 
chism for  adults  and  children  respectively,  so  Bach  wrote  every  chorale 
in  a  more  elaborate  form  for  'connoisseurs'  and  in  a  simplified  version 
without  pedal  for  'amateurs.'  There  are  preludes  on  the  German  Kyrie, 
Gloria,  Credo,  and  Pater  noster,  followed  by  the  hymns  for  Baptism,  the 
Confession  of  Sins,  and  Communion.  In  most  of  the  smaller  and  simpler 
arrangements  without  pedal,  Bach's  starting  point  is  the  traditional  form 
of  a  fughetta,  based  on  the  beginning  of  the  chorale  melody  in  its  original 

1  Although  Forkel,  Griepenkerl,  Spitta  and  others  sensed  a  relation  between  the  two 
movements,  the  similarity  in  construction  is  often  overlooked.  Grace  (/.c,  p.  226)  even 
flatly  denies  'any  alliance  in  spirit  or  form.' 

256  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

or  in  an  ornamented  form.  Several  organ  preludes  are  also  built  on  the 
complete  hymn  tune  used  as  a  cantus  firmus  and  accompanied  by  counter- 
melodies.  These  long-established  patterns  are  employed,  however,  in  a 
manner  clearly  revealing  Bach's  full  maturity.  There  is  a  significance  in 
these  preludes,  a  conception  on  a  large  scale,  an  art  of  welding  the  different 
sections  into  a  homogeneous  unity,  and  a  supreme  mastery  of  the  contra- 
puntal style,  that  marks  them  as  products  of  his  third  period.  Again  the 
composer  is  constantly  attempting  to  incorporate  seemingly  unrelated 
stylistic  elements  into  the  body  of  his  organ  music,  thus  creating  new 
artistic  conceptions.  The  ornamentation  of  the  tune  in  the  fughetta  Wir 
glauben  alV  ('We  believe  all';  P.  VII/81,  BWV  681),  for  instance,  gives 
it  the  character  of  a  French  overture.  The  most  significant  among  the 
cantus  firmus  arrangements  for  the  manual  only  is  Allein  Gott  in  der  Hon" 
('To  God  on  high  alone';  P.  VI/10,  BWV 675),  in  which  a  kind  of  two- 
part  invention  surrounds  the  chorale  melody  (Ex.  5o).Inthegreatarrange- 



J.     JlJ^Jfl 





I    ffffitr 



ment  with  pedal  of  Vater  unser  im  Himmelreich  ('Our  Father  in  Heaven'; 
P.  VII/52,  BWV  682),  the  hymn  tune  is  introduced  as  a  canon  between 
soprano  and  alto.  A  complete  trio  sonata,  with  its  typical  bass  and  imita- 
tions between  the  upper  parts,  is  added  to  this  strict  form,  thus  producing 
a  five-part  composition.  The  work  presents  almost  insurmountable  diffi- 
culties to  the  organist  who  attempts  to  keep  the  two  basic  elements  of  the 
piece  distinctly  audible,  since  he  has  to  play  one  part  of  the  trio  sonata  as 
well  as  one  part  of  the  cantus  firmus  with  each  hand.  At  the  same  time  it 
makes  the  widest  possible  use  of  all  the  colouristic  resources  of  the  instru- 
ment. In  the  version  with  pedal  of  Dies  sinddie  heiVgen  iehn  Gebot'  ('These 
are  the  holy  ten  Commandments';  P.  VI/50,  BWV  678)  Bach  simplifies 
the  technical  problem  by  entrusting  to  the  organist's  right  hand  the  upper 
parts  of  the  trio  sonata  and  to  his  left  the  strict  canon  of  the  cantus  firmus 
voices.  The  symbolic  exegesis  in  this  prelude  is  not  confined  to  the  sub- 
division of  the  trio  sonata  into  ten  sections;  the  prelude  has  a  definite 
two-part  form  by  way  of  reference  to  the  two  tablets  on  which  the 
commandments  were  inscribed.  Moreover,  the  use  of  the  canon  form  in 
this  as  well  as  in  the  preceding  prelude  may  be  intended  to  symbolize  the 
observation  of  God's  law.  The  highly  intricate  six-part  arrangement  of 

j.  Sebastian's  organ  works  (1740-1750)  257 

Aus  defer  Not  ('In  my  despair';  P.  VI/36,  BJVV  6%6)  is  inspired  by  the 
models  of  Scheidt  and  of  early  North  German  composers.  The  style  of 
the  work  is  strictly  polyphonic,  introducing  different  types  of  diminution 
and  strettos;  at  the  same  time  the  gradual  increase  in  rhythmic  motion 
gives  the  prelude  a  magnificently  urgent  character.  The  rigid  contra- 
puntal laws  supply,  as  they  so  often  did,  the  best  foundation  for  Bach  to 
express  intense  emotion.1 

The  organ  works  of  Bach's  Last  Period  are  particularly  characteristic 
of  the  old  master's  state  of  mind.  More  and  more  his  thoughts  dwelt  on 
bygone  eras  and  on  the  future,  while  the  links  with  his  own  time  became 
loosened.  The  Eighteen  Chorales  of  various  types  to  be  performed  on  an 
organ  with  two  manuals  and  pedal  were  written  down  between  1747  and 
1750.  The  composer  probably  meant  to  publish  them,  but  was  prevented 
by  death  from  doing  so.  The  majority  of  these  preludes  are  works  of  the 
Weimar  period  which  Bach  revised  in  Leipzig,  and  only  a  few  were  con- 
ceived during  the  last  years  of  the  composer's  life.  The  'Eighteen  Chorales' 
are  characterized  by  a  predilection  for  melodic  ornamentation  and  the 
absence  of  canonic  forms.  In  contrast  to  the  two  earlier  collections,  no 
liturgical  plan  can  be  detected  in  the  selection  of  the  chorales.  Bach's  inten- 
tions seem  to  have  been  primarily  of  an  educational  and  artistic  character. 
Particularly  striking  is  Jesus  Christus  unser  Heiland  ('Jesus  Christ  our 
Saviour';  P.  VI/87,  BWV  665),  where  the  various  counterpoints  to  the 
individual  lines  of  the  chorale  are  fused  together  by  the  employment  of  the 
same  gently  flowing  Allemande  rhythm.  Schmiicke  dich,  o  Hebe  Seek 
('Deck  thyself,  bright  soul';  P.  VII/50,  BWV 654)  uses,  as  a  companion 
to  the  cantus  firmus,  a  poignant  Sarabande  melody  developed  from 
the  first  two  lines  of  the  hymn  tune.  The  'state  of  bliss'  expressed  in 
this  chorale  deeply  moved  such  romantic  artists  as  Mendelssohn  and 

In  all  these  arrangements,  the  use  of  dance  and  variation  forms  points 

1  Four  duets  {BWV  802-5)  which  appear  near  the  end  of  the  third  part  of  the 
Clavier  Ubung  have  greatly  puzzled  research  students.  Owing  to  their  invention-like 
character  and  the  absence  of  a  pedal  part,  Spitta  and  Schweitzer  considered  them  to  be 
clavier  music  which  had  been  inserted  by  mistake,  and  in  1952  Ralph  Kirkpatrick  recorded 
them  as  harpsichord  pieces.  It  seems  far  more  likely,  however,  that  these  are  organ  composi- 
tions too.  Neither  the  style  of  the  music  nor  the  absence  of  pedal  parts  furnishes  conclusive 
evidence  that  Bach  erroneously  included  them  into  a  collection  of  organ  music.  In  support 
of  this,  Klaus  Ehricht  recently  proved  (BJ,  1949-50)  that  there  is  a  thematic  relation 
between  the  duets  and  some  of  the  smaller  chorale  arrangements  without  pedal. 

258  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

to  the  artistic  inspiration  Bach  received  in  his  youth  from  the  works  of 
Buxtehude  and  Bohm.  This  is  equally  true  of  the  'Canonic  Variations  on 
the  Christmas  hymn  Vom  Himmelhoch  da  komm  ich  her  (P.  V/92,  BWV 
769)  which  were  written  on  the  occasion  of  Bach's  joining  the  Mizler 
Sozietat,  and  were  printed  around  1748.  Here  he  once  more  adopts  the 
partita  form,  this  time  to  display  his  superb  skill  in  the  solution  of  contra- 
puntal problems.  Throughout  the  work  the  polyphonic  texture  grows 
more  and  more  intricate.  Bach  begins  with  a  canon  at  the  octave,  followed 
by  a  canon  at  the  fifth  and  the  seventh.  The  fourth  variation  introduces  a 
canon  of  the  augmentation,  the  fifth,  and  last,  canons  of  the  inversion, 
successively  at  the  intervals  of  the  sixth,  third,  second  and  ninth.  The 
final  stretto  actually  presents  all  four  lines  of  the  melody  simultaneously. 
In  spite  of  this  forbidding  display  of  consummate  learning,  the  canonic 
variations  are  basically  a  piece  of  lyric  music  impregnated  with  the  spirit 
of  Christmas.  The  same  attitude  can  be  found  in  Bach's  very  last  com- 
position, the  short  organ  chorale  Vor  deinen  Thron  tret'  ich  hiemit  ('Before 
Thy  throne  I  step,  O  Lord';  P.  VII/74,  BWV 668)  to  the  tune  Wenn  wir 
in  hochsten  Noten  seyn,  printed,  together  with  the  Art  of  the  Fugue,  soon 
after  the  master's  death.  Here  Bach  uses  a  succession  of  expositions,  in 
each  case  skilfully  combining  the  melodies  with  their  own  inversions.  He 
had  also  dealt  with  this  same  chorale  in  a  richly  ornamented  arrangement 
in  his  Orgelbiichlein.  Now,  however,  the  artist,  preparing  himself  to  face 
his  Maker,  does  away  with  all  unnecessary  melismata  and  presents  the  un- 
adorned melody,  surrounded  only  by  the  products  of  his  polyphonic 

It  is  remarkable  that  the  ageing  Bach  showed  following  generations 
the  way  to  write  organ  music  on  a  purely  homophonic  basis  too.  Between 
1747  and  1750  he  had  a  collection  of  6  chorales  published  by  his  pupil, 
Georg  Schiibler.  The  tendency  of  the  mature  composer  to  introduce 
stylistic  elements  from  other  fields  of  music  reached  its  peak  in  this 
collection.  With  a  single  exception  (the  model  of  which  may  have  been 
lost)  all  the  organ  chorales  are  literally  transcribed  from  movements  in 
Bach's  cantatas.1  Polyphonic  treatment  is  almost  completely  abandoned 
here.  The  cantus  firmus  is  escorted  by  broadly  flowing  melodies  of  a  song- 
like character  which  have  but  a  loose  melodic  connection  with  the  chorale 
tune.  In  the  famous  Wachet  auf,  ruft  wis  die  Stimme  ('Wake  ye  maids, 
hark,  strikes  the  hour';  P.  VII/72,  BWV  645),  Bach  writes  a  heartfelt, 
purely  lyric  and  monodic  tune  (expressing  the  procession  of  the  maidens 

1  The  6  Schiibler  Chorales  are  printed  as  P.  VII/72,  84,  76,  33;  VI/4;  VII/16  {BWV 
645-50).  Their  models  are  to  be  found  in  cantatas  No.  140,  ?,  93,  10,  6,  137. 

j.  Sebastian's  clavier  works  259 

to  meet  the  heavenly  groom)  that  has  little  melodic  relation  to  the  tune 
of  Nicolai's  hymn  with  which  it  is  interwoven.  The  'Schiibler  Chorales' 
were  widely  imitated  by  Bach's  pupils  and  became  models  for  organ 
chorale  composition  in  the  second  half  of  the  century.  Thus  the  old 
composer  not  only  brought  the  ancient  craft  of  polyphony  to  a  climax, 
but  at  the  same  time  heralded  future  developments  of  his  art. 


The  term  'clavier'  (from  Latin  clavis,  a  key)  was  used  in  Bach's  time 
to  indicate  any  instrument  with  a  keyboard.  The  first,  second,  and  fourth 
parts  of  Bach's  Clavier  Ubung  (keyboard  exercise)  for  instance,  contain 
works  for  stringed  keyboard  instruments,  while  the  third  part  is  for  organ. 
Similarly,  works  for  the  organ  are  often  inscribed  as  compositions  for 
'two  claviers  and  a  pedal.' 

However,  the  employment  of  the  term  in  this  wider  sense  was  not 
very  common.  As  a  rule,  'clavier'  denotes  one  of  three  main  types  of 
stringed  keyboard  instruments  known  to  musicians  in  the  Baroque 

(1)  a  harpsichord  (Italian,  cembalo;  French,  clavecin)  furnished  with 
one  or  two  manuals,  different  register  stops  and  several  sets  of  strings, 
plucked  by  pieces  of  quill  or  leather; 

(2)  a  spinet  or  virginal,  with  a  single  manual,  no  register  stops  and 
one  set  of  strings,  plucked  by  pieces  of  quill  or  leather; 

(3)  a  clavichord,  with  a  single  manual,  no  register  stops,  and  only  one 
set  of  strings,  struck  by  thin  metal  tangents. 

The  pianoforte,  although  in  existence  before  the  middle  of  the  century 
and  known  to  Bach,  was  probably  used  only  in  his  'Musical  Offering.' 

In  a  few  isolated  cases  such  as  the  'Goldberg  Variations'  or  the 
'Italian  Concerto,'  Bach  expressed  a  wish  that  a  harpsichord  should  be 
used.  But  as  a  rule  he  did  not  indicate  any  preference,  and  only  from  an 
analysis  of  each  particular  composition  can  it  be  conjectured  whether  the 
harpsichord,  with  its  crisp  tone  and  its  capacity  for  undergoing  sudden 
changes  in  colour  and  strength,  the  spinet,  with  its  brilliant,  yet  unbending 
sound,  or  the  clavichord,  with  its  more  flexible,  though  extremely  soft 
tone,  is  best  suited.  Pieces  without  rests,  for  example,  would  not  allow 
a  harpsichord  player  to  change  his  register  stops,  which  in  Bach's  time 
were  always  operated  by  hand.  On  the  other  hand,  the  need  for  dynamic 

260  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

changes,  particularly  in  compositions  in  concerto  form,  with  its  contrasts 
between  solo  and  tutti,  could  be  satisfied  only  on  this  instrument;  while 
melodic  lines  of  a  singing  character  would  be  best  interpreted  on  a  clavi- 

In  the  second  half  of  the  18th  century  the  meaning  of  'clavier'  was 
gradually  narrowed  down  to  clavichord.  This  accounts  for  the  faulty 
translation  of  Das  wohltemperierte  Clavier  widely  used  in  the  English- 
speaking  countries.  The  English  title  of  'Well-Tempered  Clavichord' 
would  imply  that  Bach  had  only  a  single  instrument  in  mind  for  his  work, 
whereas  the  composer  did  not  in  fact  indicate  any  such  preference.1 

In  the  absence  of  more  specific  evidence  it  must  be  assumed  that  during 
Bach's  lifetime  the  term  'clavier'  could  mean  any  stringed  keyboard 
instrument,  and  it  is  in  this  general  sense  that  the  expression  will  be  used 
in  the  present  chapter. 

The  majority  of  Bach's  works  for  the  clavier  were  products  of  his 
period  of  maturity.  Bach  himself  must  have  thought  highly  of  them,  since 
among  the  few  compositions  he  had  printed,  clavier  works  took  up  the 
greatest  space.  To  the  generations  that  followed  him,  he  was  primarily 
a  master  of  clavier  composition,  while  the  great  vocal  works  and  the 
chamber  and  orchestral  music  were  only  rediscovered  during  the  19th 

The  clavier  works  from  Bach's  First  Period  of  Composition  were  pri- 
marily dependent  on  models  provided  by  masters  from  Central  and 
Southern  Germany.  North  German  influences,  which  were  of  such 
importance  for  Bach  as  an  organ  composer,  are  far  less  in  evidence  here. 
A  Fugue  in  e  {BWV  945),  obviously  one  of  the  composer's  earliest 
works,  attempts  to  imitate  Pachelbel.  It  is  an  awkward  composition, 
completely  lacking  in  modulations,  and  written  against  the  clavier  rather 
than  for  it.  A  Sonata  in  D  {BWV  963)  is  still  under  the  influence  of  the 
great  Johann  Kuhnau,  who  was  the  first  to  write  sonatas  in  several  move- 
ments for  the  clavier.  The  last  movement  has  the  heading  Thema  all' 
Imitatio  Gallina  Cucca.  Translated  from  the  faulty  wording  of  the  old 
manuscript2  the  title  reads:  'Theme  imitating  hen  and  cuckoo,'  and  these 
two  birds  can  in  fact  be  heard  merrily  raising  their  voices  all  through  the 
movement  {Ex.  51).  The  Austrian  Poglietti's  Henner-  und  Hannergeschrey 

1  Forkel's  statement  that  Bach  liked  best  to  play  upon  the  clavichord  need  not  be  taken 
literally.  Forkel  received  much  information  from  Emanuel  Bach,  the  foremost  exponent 
of  clavichord  playing.  It  is  not  impossible  that  the  Hamburg  composer  attributed  to  his 
father  an  attitude  which  was  basically  his  own.  Equally  unconvincing  is  the  attempt  of 
Hans  Brandts-Buys  to  prove  that  the  Well-Tempered  Clavier  was  written  for  the  organ. 

2  The  composer  probably  meant:  Tema  alVimita\ione  della  gallina  e  del  cuculo. 

j.  Sebastian's  clavier  works  (before  1708)       261 

(cries  of  hens  and  roosters)  and  the  notes  of  the  cuckoo  in  works  by  the 
Bavarian  Kerll  may  have  acted  as  godfathers  to  this  gay  composition. 

Also  pointing  to  South  German  sources  is  the  name  Capriccio  which 
Bach  gave  to  a  kind  of  toccata-fugue  in  E  (BWV  y^)  with  the  interesting 
inscription:  In  honorem  Joh.  Christoph  Bachii,  Ohrdruf.  While  the  work 
dedicated  to  Sebastian's  eldest  brother  and  teacher  is  rather  insignificant, 
inspiration  flowed  much  more  freely  when  the  young  composer  wrote  a 
clavier  piece  for  another  member  of  the  family.  It  is  the  humorous 
Capriccio  sopra  la  lontanan^a  del  suo  fratello  dilettissimo  ('Capriccio  on  the 
departure  of  his  most  beloved  brother';  BWVyyz)  written  in  1704,  when 
Johann  Jakob  Bach  decided  to  join  the  army  of  Charles  XII,  King  of 
Sweden.  This  delightful  work  is  a  jocose  interpretation  of  devices  intro- 
duced four  years  before  by  Kuhnau  in  his  'Biblical  Sonatas.'  The  technique 
which  the  earlier  master  had  applied  to  the  description  of  incidents  from 
the  Old  Testament  was  employed  by  young  Sebastian  to  depict  some 
tender  and  amusing  domestic  scenes.  Each  of  the  six  movements  has  a 
'programmatic'  heading,  partly  in  German,  partly  in  Italian:  '(1)  Arioso. 
Adagio,  represents  the  coaxing  of  the  friends  to  prevent  his  journey.  (2) 
[Andante],  outlines  various  accidents  that  may  happen  to  him  in  foreign 
lands.  (3)  Adagissimo,  is  a  general  lament  of  friends.  (4)  Here  the  friends, 
seeing  that  it  cannot  be  otherwise,  come  to  take  leave.  (5)  Aria  of  the 
postilion.  Adagio  poco.  (6)  Fugue,  imitating  the  sound  of  the  posthorn.' 
The  most  variegated  devices  are  used  to  convey  the  different  emotions. 
The  'coaxing'  of  the  friends  is  described  with  the  help  of  a  wide  array  of 
cajoling  French  ornaments.  For  the  description  of  the  dangers  that  might 
befall  the  traveller  in  foreign  lands,  modulations  into  distant  keys  are 
selected.  The  'general  lament'  introduces  the  chromatically  descending 
bass  figure  which  for  Baroque  composers  is  the  typical  vehicle  for  the 
expression  of  supreme  grief.  (Purcell  uses  it  in  the  death  song  of  Dido, 
and  Bach  himself  does  likewise  in  the  Crucifixus  of  the  B  minor  Mass.) 
Here  the  composer  temporarily  relinquishes  the  clavier  style  proper;  the 
'lament'  appears  like  a  solo  for  a  melody  instrument  and  figured  bass,  to 
which  the  performer  has  to  add  filling  parts  not  contained  in  the  manu- 



script.  The  'Aria  of  the  postilion'  uses  the  gay  octave  jump  which  was 
produced  by  the  tiny  posthorns  of  the  18th  century.  This  simple  motive 
and  a  second  more  elaborate  horn-call  return  in  the  double  fugue  of  the 
finale  with  the  beginning  {Ex.  52).  In  its  lively  mood,  its  effortless  flow 

&*V  -'£JJJJ|Ji4flJJJJ|iii^f 



of  ideas  and  clever  utilization  of  sound  effects  characteristic  of  the  clavier, 
this  is  one  of  the  most  attractive  compositions  of  the  young  Bach.  The 
charming  spirit  of  light  merriment  present  in  the  whole  'Capriccio'  was 
but  rarely  recaptured  in  Bach's  later  clavier  works. 

In  Bach's  Second  Period  we  notice  a  more  systematic  application  to 
the  solution  of  specific  clavieristic  problems.  The  arranging  of  violin 
concertos  now  became  the  focal  point  of  his  efforts  both  for  the  organ 
and  the  clavier.  The  acquaintance  with  such  works,  in  particular  those 
of  young  Vivaldi,  proved  an  experience  that  was  to  shape  decisively 
his  whole  creative  output  (cf.  p.  246). 

The  exact  number  of  Bach's  arrangements  of  Vivaldi's  violin  con- 
certos is  not  yet  known.  The  42nd  volume  of  the  Bach  Gesellschaft,  issued 
in  1894,  contains  '16  concertos  after  Vivaldi'  {BWV  972-87).  It  has 
been  proved,  primarily  by  Arnold  Schering,  that  of  these  works  three 
(Nos.  11,  13,1  and  16)  were  based  on  concertos  by  Duke  Johann  Ernst  of 
Weimar,  one  (No.  14)  on  a  violin  concerto  by  Telemann,  and  one  (No.  3) 
on  the  oboe  concerto  byMarcello.2  Of  the  remainder,  six  (Nos.  1, 2,4, 5,7, 
9)  have  been  ascertained  to  be  works  by  Vivaldi.  The  sources  for  the  other 
concertos  have  not  yet  been  found,  but  it  seems  likely  that  there  are  some 
more  compositions  by  Vivaldi,  Marcello  and  Telemann  among  them.3 

Bach  did  not  mechanically  transfer  the  string  parts  to  the  keyboard 
instrument.  Wherever  it  seemed  necessary,  he  gave  greater  flexibility  to 
the  bass  line,  filled  the  middle  parts,  enriched  the  polyphonic  texture,  and 

1  The  first  movement  of  the  Concerto  No.  13  was  also  arranged  by  Bach  for  the  organ. 

2  This  concerto,  too,  is  occasionally  attributed  to  Vivaldi. 

3  Cf.  Szabolcsi  Bence,  'Europai  virradat,'  Budapest,  1949. 

j.  Sebastian's  clavier  works  (1708-1717)  263 

ornamented  the  melodic  lines,  in  order  to  adapt  the  sustained  tone  of 
strings  to  the  transient  sound  of  the  clavier  (Ex.  53).  These  arrangements 

WoWncI  j 

T?vaJ di}  Concerto  op-1,  IE  Largo  c&niabilet 

I    I    I      Idd 


3acft '«  arrangement  for  clarier 

4>— TN^ 

were  primarily  made  by  Bach  for  his  own  artistic  development.  They 
satisfied  his  zest  for  experimenting,  but  they  also  served  the  purpose  of 
supplying  good  clavier  music  for  his  own  performances.1 

Bach's  own  compositions  reveal  the  strong  interest  which  he  took 
during  his  Weimar  years  in  music  of  the  Apennine  peninsula.  One  result 
of  his  preoccupation  with  that  country's  string  music  is  the  Aria  variata 
alia  maniera  italiana  (BWV  989).  It  appears  like  a  duet  between  violin 
and  'cello,  and  occasionally  direct  allusions  to  Bach's  concerto  arrange- 
ments can  be  noticed.  The  variation  technique,  too,  is  of  the  Italian  type, 
ornamenting  and  transforming  the  melodic  line  of  the  tuneful  air  in  a 
rather  superficial  manner,  contrary  to  that  of  Bach's  later  variations  which 
was  much  more  intricate.2  The  magnificent  Prelude  and  Fugue  in  a 
(BWV  894)  are  constructed  like  the  first  movement  and  finale  of  a  con- 
certo. These  two  movements  show  such  perfection  that  it  becomes  under- 
standable why  Bach  at  a  later  date  reversed  his  ordinary  procedure  and 

1  In  addition,  Bach  made  clavier  adaptations  of  two  sonatas  and  a  fugue  for  two 
violins,  viola  da  gamba  and  bass  taken  from  Johann  Adams  Reinken's  'Hortus  Musicus' 
(BWV 965-66),  and  of  an  organ  fugue  of  the  Freiberg  organist  J.  C.  Erselius  (BWVy^). 
In  these  cases  he  gave  more  to  his  sources  than  he  received,  since  he  transformed  and 
enriched  the  original  compositions  considerably. 

2  In  the  same  category  belongs  the  so-called  Toccata  in  G  (BWV  916)  in  the  form 
of  an  Italian  sinfonia.  Its  first  movement  sounds  like  one  of  Bach's  clavier  arrangements 
of  a  Vivaldi  concerto.  It  consists  mainly  of  a  tutti  which  is  repeated  several  times  in 
various  keys,  with  modulating  solo  episodes  connecting  the  different  entrances.  The  fugal 
finale  which  follows  after  a  slow  middle  section  also  displays  the  bright  and  cheerful  mood 
of  a  concerto.  Four  other  Toccatas  (BWV  yiz-ij)  are  somewhat  similar  in  character. 

264  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

orchestrated  the  clavier  work,  transforming  it  with  consummate  skill  into 
a  real  concerto  for  flute,  violin,  clavier  and  strings  (BWV  1044).  At  the 
same  time  the  composer  added  a  middle  movement  which  he  borrowed 
from  the  third  of  his  organ  sonatas.  Two  Fugues  in  A  and  b  (BWV  ^o- 
951)  based  on  trio  sonatas  for  two  violins,  'cello  and  keyboard  instrument 
by  Tommaso  Albinoni  (1674- 174  5)  would  seem  to  belong  to  the  master's 
arrangements.  Actually  Bach  changed  so  much  and  preserved  so  little  that 
it  appears  justifiable  to  consider  them  as  independent  works  inspired  by 
Italian  models.  Bach  was  particularly  impressed  by  the  plastic  themes  of 
the  Italian  composer,1  but  their  elaboration  could  not  satisfy  him.  As  a 
matter  of  fact,  the  fugue  in  b  exists  in  two  versions:  one  fairly  close  to  the 
Italian  work,  and  another  from  a  later  period  which  is  almost  three  times 
as  long;  it  exhausts  the  contrapuntal  possibilities  of  the  theme  to  an  extent 
of  which  its  original  composer  had  never  been  aware,  and  it  imbues  the 
fugue  with  an  intensity  of  feeling  quite  different  from  the  calm  serenity  of 
Albinoni's  music. 

In  certain  clavier  compositions  written  during  the  last  Weimar  years 
(or  possibly  at  Cothen)  a  complete  sublimation  of  the  Italian  influence  is 
in  evidence.  These  superbly  proportioned  pieces,  beautifully  worked  out 
in  every  detail,  could  not  possibly  have  been  written  if  Sebastian  had  not 
gone  through  a  period  of  the  most  intense  study  of  Southern  art;  but  there 
is  no  direct  reference  to  Italian  sources  and  it  almost  seems  as  if  Bach  were 
retracing  his  steps.  In  the  Toccatas  in  f  sharp  and  c  (BWV  910-11)  the 
different  sections  no  longer  show  the  separation  into  four  movements  of 
the  Italian  church  sonata.  They  follow  each  other  without  interruption 
and,  to  make  the  connection  even  closer,  in  the  Toccata  in  f  sharp  Bach 
evolves  the  subject  of  the  end  fugue  out  of  the  theme  of  the  slow  section 
(Ex.  54).  The  composer  returns  here  to  the  traditional  one-piece  toccata 

Ex  St- 


of  Georg  Muffat  and  the  variation  technique  of  Froberger,  imbuing  them 
with  his  own  striving  towards  unity  and  cohesion  of  parts. — A  work  that 
in  its  rhapsodic  spirit  belongs  to  an  earlier  phase,  although  it  probably 

1  Compare  the  use  of  themes  by  Legrenzi  and  Corelli  in  Bach's  organ  works  of  the 
period  (p.  247). 

j.  Sebastian's  clavier  works  (1717-1750)  265 

received  its  final  form  in  Cothen,  is  the  Chromatic  Fantasy  and  Fugue 
{BWV  903).  In  spite  of  its  emotional  intensity  the  Fantasy  has  a  logical 
construction,  being  clearly  divided  into  three  sections.  The  fugue,  with  a 
theme  based  on  chromatic  progressions,  is  mainly  responsible  for  the 
epithet  given  to  the  whole  work.  It  starts  in  strict  contrapuntal  style  but 
gradually  loosens  up  as  the  composition  progresses.  The  majestic  ending, 
with  its  organ-point  and  the  powerful  harmonization  of  the  theme,  con- 
firms the  character  of  grandeur  which  prevails  in  this  dramatic  com- 
position. One  would  like  to  think  that  it  was  with  a  work  of  this  type 
that  Bach  won  his  laurels  when  he  regaled  the  spellbound  Dresden 
audience  after  Marchand  had  evaded  the  contest  with  his  German  rival.1 

The  mature  Bach  was  by  inclination  and  vocation  a  teacher.  Unlike 
the  majority  of  great  composers,  he  considered  instructing  others  not  a 
tedious  chore  but  a  stimulating  experience.  Keyboard  instruments  were 
particularly  well  suited  for  teaching  purposes,  and  Bach  wrote  a  great 
number  of  works  that  are  primarily  intended  as  technical  studies,  but 
which  developed  under  the  hands  of  the  master  into  creations  of  supreme 
beauty  as  well  as  craftsmanship.  They  are  by  no  means  etudes  written  for 
his  personal  pupils  only,  but  collections  devised  on  the  largest  possible 
scale  and  intended  for  all  students  and  music-lovers  alike. 

The  title-page  of  the  Orgelbilchlein  (cf.  p.  250)  by  its  reference  to  the 
'beginning  organist'  and  the  'instruction  of  the  fellow  musician'  clearly 
reveals  its  pedagogical  purpose.  This  purpose  is  just  as  obvious  in  a 
document  of  a  different  nature  started  in  1720  for  Sebastian's  eldest  son, 
Friedemann,  then  9^  years  old.  This  Clavierbiichlein2  ('Little  clavier 
book'),  partly  written  by  Bach  and  partly  under  his  supervision,  contains 
a  progressive  manual,  starting  with  an  explanation  of  clefs  and  ornaments, 
and  leading  the  pupil  from  the  simplest  to  the  more  advanced  pieces.  In  an 
Applicatio  {BWV  994)  at  the  beginning  of  the  Clavierhuchlein^  a  short 
composition  is  completely  fingered  by  the  composer  himself,  showing 
Sebastian's  bold  innovation  in  the  use  of  the  thumb  (which  had  hitherto 
hardly  been  employed  on  the  clavier),  but  also  his  liking  for  the  old- 

1  The  first  notes  of  the  fugue  theme  are,  according  to  the  German  designation, 
A-B-H-C.  These  letters  make  up  the  name  of  the  composer,  although  in  a  different  order. 
It  is  well  known  that  Bach  intended  to  use  the  letters  of  his  name  in  the  unfinished  fugue 
of  his  Art  of  the  Fugue. 

2  The  original  manuscript  is  the  property  of  Yale  University,  New  Haven,  Conn. 



fashioned  method  of  passing  the  third  over  the  fourth  finger  {Ex.  55). 
Other  compositions  likewise  fingered  by  the  master  {BG,  36/126  and  224, 


rfrfr    J    , 


«    s   *  s    5 

1  j  .J.J  a  3  * » i 

1    * 


— *   r  r  FT 

"j,    p«  ' 

I4        r 

1                  Is 

Vt-H  lr^a 

L- !-'     f     ' 

225)  reveal  a  similar  attitude.  Bach  systematically  combined  traditional 
and  new  devices,  relinquishing  little  that  came  to  him  from  the  past,  but 
lifting  it  nearer  to  perfection. 

The  Clavierbiichlein  contains  nine  easy  preludes  {BWV  924-32), 
which  were  not  meant  as  introductions  to  fugues  but  as  independent 
musical  vignettes,  valuable  both  as  preparatory  studies  and  for  the  enjoy- 
ment they  provided  for  the  young  pupil.1  Of  greater  importance  are  the 
fifteen  Praeambula  and  fourteen  Fantasias  in  the  manual,  which  we  now 
know  as  the  'Two-part  Inventions'  and  the  'Sinfonie'  (Three-part  inven- 
tions; BWV  772-801).  Bach  must  have  used  these  compositions  a  great 
deal,  since  they  also  exist  in  two  other  autographs,  the  later  of  which 
bears  the  following  interesting  inscription: 

Honest  guide,  by  which  lovers  of  the  clavier,  and  particularly  those  desirous  of  learning, 
are  shown  a  plain  way  not  only  to  play  neatly  in  two  parts,  but  also,  as  they  progress,  to 
treat  three  obbligato  parts  correctly  and  well,  and  at  the  same  time  to  acquire  good  ideas 
and  properly  to  elaborate  them,  and  most  of  all  to  learn  a  singing  style  of  playing,  and 
simultaneously  to  obtain  a  strong  foretaste  of  composition.  Executed  by  Joh.  Seb.  Bach, 
capellmeister  of  the  Prince  of  Anhalt-Cothen,  Anno  Christi,  1723. 

The  title  once  more  announces  the  educational  purpose.  These  works 
are  meant  as  studies  for  the  performer  and  for  the  budding  composer  as 
well.  The  reference  to  the  singing  style  of  playing  seems  to  indicate  that 
for  the  execution  of  these  studies  Bach  intended  the  clavichord  to  be 
used,  on  which  modulations  of  the  tone-quality  are  possible.  The  manu- 
script begins  with  a  revised  version  of  the  Praeambula  (now  called  inven- 
tions) and  presents  them  in  order  of  ascending  keys — C,  c,  D,  d,  E  flat,  E,  e, 
F,  f,  G,  g,  A,  a,  B  flat,  b — omitting  only  the  less  common  ones.  Next  follow 
the  Fantasias  in  their  definite  form.  There  are  now  fifteen  of  them  in  the 
same  keys  and  presented  in  the  same  order  as  the  inventions.  Their  new 
name  is  Sinfonie.  It  is  easy  to  trace  the  models  which  Bach  followed  in 

1  A  collection  of  Bach's  6  preludes  of  a  similar  nature  is  inscribed  in  an  old  manu- 
script A  I'usage  des  commenpants. 

j.  Sebastian's  clavier  works  (1717-1750)  267 

writing  these  compositions.  The  two-part  inventions  are  fashioned  after 
preludes  by  Johann  Kuhnau  and  J.  Kaspar  Ferdinand  Fischer.  Bach 
found  the  unusual  name  in  Bonporti's  Inven^ioni  for  violin  and  bass, 
compositions  which  interested  him  so  much  that  he  copied  four  of  them 
(BWV^  Anh.  173-76).  The  Sinfonie  (now  usually  referred  to  as  three- 
part  inventions)  are  based  on  Kuhnau' s  attempt  to  transplant  the  Italian 
trio  sonata  to  the  clavier,  but  what  Bach  creates  out  of  these  elements  is 
nevertheless  entirely  new.  No  other  composer  had  ever  considered  im- 
buing clavier  compositions  of  such  small  dimensions  with  a  content  of 
similar  significance.  There  are  studies  in  independent  part  writing  using 
all  the  devices  of  fugue  and  canon,  double  and  triple  counterpoint,  but 
without  strict  adherence  to  any  of  them.  Bach  offers  fantasias  in  the  realm 
of  polyphony,  freely  blending  all  known  techniques,  and  creating  forms 
which  are  held  together  by  the  logic,  and  the  iron  consistency,  of  his 
musical  thought.  An  analysis  of  the  very  first  of  the  two-part  inventions 
for  instance  shows  that  the  simple  initial  idea  {Ex.  56a)  together  with  its 
inversion  {Ex.  56^)  dominate  the  whole  composition.  Apart  from  the 


cadences,  there  is  not  one  measure  that  does  not  contain  either  or  both  of 
them.  The  invention  is  divided  into  five  sections  (b.  1-6,  7-10,  11-14,  15- 
18,  19-22)  which  are  of  approximately  the  same  length,  and  there  is  a 
marked  relationship  between  the  first  and  last  section,  as  well  as  between 
the  second  and  fourth. 

Similar  instances  of  perfect  musical  architecture  may  be  found  in 
many  of  these  30  microcosms.  As  always  in  Bach's  work,  technical  perfec- 
tion is  combined  with  the  strongest  emotional  intensity.  In  the  three-part 
invention  in  f,  for  instance,  the  intricate  polyphonic  interpretation  of  the 
three  subjects  and  the  magnificent  formal  construction  are  employed  in  an 
atmosphere  of  sinister  pathos,  the  dramatic  power  of  which  Bach  himself 
has  hardly  ever  surpassed.  Like  some  of  the  short  clavier  compositions  of 
the  Romantic  period,  the  two-  and  three-part  inventions  could  be 
presented  in  groups.  The  second  autograph  of  the  work  shows  each  two- 
part  invention  followed  by  a  three-part  invention  in  the  same  key.  There 
is  a  definite  inner  relation  between  the  members  of  the  resulting  pairs 
(particularly  obvious  in  the  two-  and  three-part  inventions  in  C,  E,  and  A 
respectively);  yet  the  performance  of  the  work  in  the  order  of  the  last 
autograph  is  equally  successful. 

268  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

Eleven  preludes  from  the  Clavierbiichlein  written  for  Friedemann  Bach 
were  used  in  revised  and  enlarged  form  for  a  third  and  particularly  signi- 
ficant composition.  This  work,  finished  in  1722,  has  the  title: 

The  Well-Tempered  Clavier,  or  preludes  and  fugues  in  all  the  tones  and  semitones, 
both  with  the  major  third  or  'Ut,  Re,  Mi'  and  with  the  minor  third  or  'Re,  Mi,  Fa.'  For 
the  use  and  profit  of  young  musicians  who  are  anxious  to  learn,  as  well  as  for  the  amuse- 
ment of  those  who  are  already  expert  in  the  art. 

The  24  preludes  and  fugues  of  the  Well-Tempered  Clavier  {BWV  846- 
869),  one  for  each  major  and  minor  key,  were  so  successful  that  in  Leipzig 
Bach  compiled  a  second  collection  of  'Twenty-four  New  Preludes  and 
Fugues'1  {BWV  870-93)  which  was  completed  between  1740  and  1744. 
These  forty-eight  pairs  have  since  become  the  basic  material  of  the  litera- 
ture for  keyboard  instruments,  and  it  is  on  them  that  Bach's  fame  as  the 
greatest  master  of  fugue  composition  largely  rests. 

The  unusual  name  that  he  chose  for  the  first  collection  was  inspired  by 
a  most  important  innovation  made  at  the  end  of  the  17th  century.  Andreas 
Werckmeister,  a  German  organist,  published  in  1691  a  treatise  entitled 
'Musical  Temperament  or  .  .  .  mathematical  instruction  how  to  produce 
...  a  well-tempered  intonation  on  the  clavier.'  In  this  work  the  author 
demands  the  use  of  'equal  temperament'  for  all  keyboard  instruments. 
The  'pure'  or  mathematical  intonation  which  was  the  basis  of  the  older 
systems  had  the  disadvantage  that  it  contained  half-tones  of  different  sizes. 
The  possibilities  of  modulation  were  therefore  very  limited,  and  keys 
with  many  sharps  or  flats  could  not  be  used.  In  Werckmeister's  'equal 
temperament,'  on  the  other  hand,  the  octave  was  artificially  divided  into 
twelve  half-tones  which  were  exactly  alike.  Each  of  them  could  therefore 
take  the  place  of  the  tonic  and  there  was  no  limitation  to  the  use  of  modu- 
lations. German  musicians  were  quick  to  explore  the  potentialities  of  the 
new  system.  J.  P.  Treiber  published,  in  1702  and  1704,  two  compositions 
which,  according  to  his  claim,  employ  'all  the  keys  and  chords.'  Of  great 
importance  for  Bach's  work  was  Fischer's  Ariadne  Musica  .  .  .  per  XX 
Praeludia,  totidem  Fugas  (1710?)  in  which  the  composer,  with  the  aid  of 
the  'Ariadne  thread'  of  modulation,  leads  his  hearers  through  the  laby- 
rinth of  the  keys.  In  1719  Mattheson  presented  in  his  Organistenprobe  '24 
easy  and  as  many  somewhat  more  difficult  examples  in  all  the  keys,'  and 
in  1722,  the  year  of  the  Well-Tempered  Clavier,  Friedrich  Suppig,  an 

1  This  title  is  quoted  by  Marpurg.  The  autograph  in  the  British  Museum  does  not 
have  a  tide.  Its  designation  as  second  part  of  the  Well-Tempered  Clavier  apparendy 
originated  after  the  composer's  death. 

j.  Sebastian's  clavier  works  (1717-1750)  269 

organist  in  Dresden,  wrote  Labyrinthus  Musicus,  a  'fantasy  through  all 
the  keys,  12  major  and  12  minor.'1 

Sebastian's  work  in  this  field  is  not  only  greater  than  that  of  any  of 
his  predecessors,  but  it  explores  all  the  possibilities  of  the  'well-tempered' 
system  with  a  thoroughness  that  none  of  the  other  composers  had 
attempted.  Bach  realized  that  in  'equal  temperament'  lay  the  seeds  of  a 
revolution  in  the  traditional  clavier  fugue.  It  was  no  longer  necessary 
permanently  to  introduce  new  subjects  or  counter-subjects,  or  to  employ 
variations  of  the  fugal  theme.  These  earlier  features,  which  tended  to  give 
the  fugue  a  certain  patchwork  character,  could  be  dispensed  with  if  modu- 
lation were  systematically  employed.  Loosely  built  fugues  with  a  certain 
amount  of  modulation  had  often  been  used  in  both  chamber  and  orchestral 
music.  In  Bach's  work  they  are  transferred  to  the  clavier,  and  take  on  the 
greater  solidity  of  texture  peculiar  to  keyboard  music.  Entries  of  the  main 
theme  solidly  establish  each  key,  while  the  connecting  episodes  provide 
the  necessary  modulations.  Since  the  material  of  the  episodes  is  derived 
from  the  main  theme  or  the  counterpoint  which  escorts  it,  the  uniformity 
of  the  musical  substance  is  complete  within  each  fugue.  As  a  rule  full 
cadences  or  general  rests  are  avoided;  the  different  sections  are  carefully 
interlinked  in  order  to  increase  the  feeling  of  absolute  oneness  which  the 
hearer  receives  from  these  works. 

The  prevailing  tendency  towards  unification  by  no  means  prevents 
the  existence  of  tremendous  differences  between  the  individual  composi- 
tions. No  two  preludes  or  fugues  resemble  each  other  in  mood;  each  of 
them  represents  a  particular  frame  of  mind.  There  is  a  similar  variety  in 
the  formal  construction  and  the  technical  devices  used  in  this  work.  We 
find  fugues  not  only  with  three  and  four  voices,  but  also  with  two  and  five. 
Next  to  fugues  of  the  highest  polyphonic  intricacy,  like  No.  8,  the  Well- 
Tempered  Clavier  contains  fugues  as  loosely  constructed  as  No.  10,  the 
two  parts  of  which  are  carried  on  for  several  measures  in  simple  parallel 
octaves.  Old-fashioned  fugues  of  Froberger's  ricercar  type  (No.  4)  alter- 
nate with  highly  progressive  fugues  introducing  chromatic  and  modu- 
lating themes  (Nos.  12  and  24).  And,  of  course,  all  kinds  of  transitional 
forms  can  be  detected  between  such  extremes.  Even  greater  contrasts  can 
be  found  in  the  different  types  of  preludes.  There  are  preludes  imitating 
lute  improvisations  (No.  1),  those  of  the  etude  type  (No.  5),  some 
resembling  two-part  and  three-part  inventions  (Nos.  11  and  19)  and 

1  Bernhard  Christian  Weber's  Well-Tempered  Clavier  with  the  forged  date  1689 
was  not  a  model  for  Bach's  work,  but  merely  a  later  imitation  of  it,  probably  written 
around  1750, 



preludes  imitating  the  slow  movement  of  a  church  sonata  (Nos.  8  and  22). 
Bach's  tendency  to  enrich  his  compositions  through  the  transfer  of  forms 
originating  in  other  types  of  music  is  particularly  noticeable  here.  The 
relation  between  preludes  and  fugues  also  shows  a  great  amount  of  variety. 
In  general  the  first  volume  of  the  Well-Tempered  Clavier  displays  a 
firm  coherence  between  the  two  members  of  each  group,  and  the  preludes 
effectively  prepare  for  the  following  more  strictly  polyphonic  composi- 
tion. In  rare  cases  there  is  even  a  real  thematic  bond,  as  the  beginning  of 
No.  1  can  show,  where  the  top  notes  of  the  arpeggios  in  the  first  7 
measures  anticipate  the  main  notes  of  the  fugal  subject  (Ex.  57). 

(\      "PreJud 

*s — 1 




O          - 

f)     Tugue:         *       *           x  y     1       x    x 

The  '24  New  Preludes  and  Fugues,'  usually  referred  to  as  the  second 
part  of  the  Well-Tempered  Clavier,  were  written  at  a  time  when  Bach's 
older  sons  were  beginning  to  make  their  contribution  to  the  development 
of  musical  forms.  Accordingly  the  preludes  are  frequently  in  two-part 
dance  form  (Nos.  8  and  18),  and  even  take  on  a  sonata  form  with  complete 
recapitulation,  although  still  lacking  any  subsidiary  theme  (No.  5).  In- 
stead of  a  coda,  one  prelude  has  a  kind  of  fughetta  (No.  3)  and  another 
resembles  a  three-part  fugue  (No.  22).  In  these  two  cases  Bach  para- 
doxically uses  fugues  as  introductions  to  fugues.  The  progressive  as  well 
as  the  clearly  unorthodox  character  of  these  preludes  is  also  to  be  found 
in  the  fugues.  The  fantastic  and  unconventional  beginning  of  No.  20 
could  hardly  have  received  its  final  shaping  before  1740.  While  the  fugues 
of  the  older  volume  display  the  highest  degree  of  polyphonic  virtuosity, 
the  later  set  is  more  restrained  in  its  parade  of  contrapuntal  devices.  There 
is  notably  a  marked  decrease  in  the  number  of  strettos,  and  the  second 
book  contains  no  counterpart  to  the  intricate  chromatic  fugues  of  the  first 
collection,  its  whole  character  being  more  diatonic  and  even  modal.  In 
No.  9  for  instance  with  its  plainsong  theme,  something  like  a  spirit  of 

I  X.  SB 

austere  early  vocal  polyphony  manifests  itself  (Ex.  58).  Thus  the  second 
book  does  not  achieve  Baroque  monumentality  to  the  same  extent  as  the 

j.  Sebastian's   clavier  works  (1717-1750)  271 

first.  It  is  a  loose  collection  of  individual  numbers,  emphasizing  a  more 
homophonic  style  and  displaying  modernistic  tendencies  coupled  with 
retrospective  features. 

After  the  Clavierbikhlein  for  Friedemann,  two  other  works  of  a  similar 
nature  were  begun  by  Sebastian.  The  first,  written  in  1722  and  probably 
meant  as  technical  exercise  and  entertainment  for  members  of  his  household, 
is  predominantly  in  the  hand  of  the  master  himself.  It  contains  the  first  five 
French  suites  (BWV  812-16)  as  well  as  some  fragments  and  insignificant 
little  pieces.  The  binding  of  this  Notenbiichlein  deteriorated  through  the 
centuries  and  some  sheets  are  missing  altogether,  yet  it  still  gives  a  good 
idea  of  the  kind  of  music  Bach  liked  to  have  performed  in  his  own  home. 
In  much  better  condition  is  the  big  Notenbiichlein  for  Anna  Magdalena 
Bach,  which  her  husband  presented  to  her  in  1725.  He  personally  inserted 
Nos.  Ill  and  VI  of  his  Partitas  {BWV  827  and  830),  but  the  rest  of  the 
pages  were  given  to  his  wife  to  do  with  as  she  pleased.  The  book  contains 
a  number  of  little  dance  pieces  (minuets,  polonaises,  marches,  a  musette) 
which  were  not  composed  by  Sebastian  and  may  not  even  reflect  the  taste 
of  Magdalena  who  entered  them  in  the  book.  These  agreeable  and  tech- 
nically very  simple  representatives  of  the  style  galant  were  probably  meant 
for  the  little  hands  of  Emanuel,  aged  11,  and  for  the  younger  children. 
They  were  also  particularly  well  suited  for  use  in  the  dancing  lessons 
which,  according  to  the  custom  of  the  time,  every  growing  boy  and  girl 
had  to  take.  Bach's  authorship  may  also  well  be  doubted  in  such  anony- 
mous works  as  the  philistine  aria  'Elevating  Thoughts  of  a  Tobacco 
Smoker'  {BWV  515)  and  the  not  very  refined  wedding  poem.  A  little 
love  song  Willst  du  dein  Her^  mir  schenken  by  Giovannini,  a  Rondeau  by 
Couperin,  and  a  Minuet  by  Bohm  also  slipped  into  the  collection.  The 
composer  Sebastian  is  not  represented  in  this  family  music  book  as  often 
as  one  would  expect.  Besides  the  2  Partitas,  it  again  contains  2  French 
Suites  {BWV  812,  813:  the  second  one  incomplete),  the  first  prelude 
from  the  Well-Tempered  Clavier,  and  a  handful  of  chorales  and  arias, 
among  them  the  tender  Bist  du  bei  mir  ('Are  you  with  me';  BWV  508). 
Altogether  the  Notenbiichlein  presents  a  rather  amusing  medley  with 
entries  not  only  by  father  and  mother  Bach,  but  occasionally  also  by 
their  children,  with  Sebastian's  attempts  to  correct  mistakes  and  even  to 
provide  for  his  sons  a  systematic  course  in  the  realization  of  a  figured  bass. 
After  the  15th  rule,  however  the  master  gave  up,  with  the  excuse  that  'the 
rest  could  be  better  explained  orally.' 

The  two  Notenbiichlein  introduce  a  new  form  of  composition,  hardly 
cultivated  by  Bach  during  his  first  period,  but  becoming  of  the  utmost 

272  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

importance  in  his  maturity:  the  suite  of  dances.  The  so-called  'French 
Suites'  included  in  the  two  little  note  books  are  not  however,  the  earliest 
works  that  Bach  wrote  in  this  field.  They  are  preceded  by  another  set, 
known  to-day  as  English  Suites.  All  attempts  to  find  a  valid  reason  for 
this  name  have  so  far  proved  unsuccessful.  The  designation,  though  not 
originating  with  Bach  himself,  was  probably  coined  at  an  early  date.  On 
a  copy  of  the  set,  in  the  handwriting  of  Sebastian's  youngest  son,  Johann 
Christian,  there  is  written:  ''Fait  pour  les  Anglois,'  and  Forkel  states  in  his 
Bach  biography  that  the  work  was  composed  for  a  distinguished  English- 
man. Another  and  more  probable  theory  is  that  the  study  of  the  suites  by 
Dieupart,  who  lived  in  London  as  a  teacher  and  composer,  induced  Bach 
to  write  this  collection.  Actually  Sebastian  made  a  copy  of  Dieupart's 
clavier  suite  in  f  and  used  this  composer's  gigue  in  A  as  a  model  for  the 
prelude  to  his  own  English  suite  in  the  same  key.1  Apart  from  this,  hardly 
any  English  features  can  be  detected  in  the  six  suites  of  the  set.  Bach 
followed  the  tradition  of  the  German  suite  which  during  the  second  half 
of  the  17th  century  had  imported  from  France  the  four  dances,  Allemande, 
Courante,  Sarabande  and  Gigue,  inserting  some  optional  Galanterien 
(dances  or  dance-like  movements  different  in  character  from  the  main 
numbers)  between  Sarabande  and  Gigue,  and  placing  an  introductory 
number  at  the  head  of  each  suite. 

The  first  number  of  the  English  Suites  (BWV  806-11)  always  bears 
the  same,  rather  nondescript  title  of  Prelude.  Actually,  the  first  Prelude, 
which  introduces  near  its  beginning  an  arpeggio  of  specifically  harpsi- 
chord character  (Ex.  59),  is  a  kind  of  fantasy  based  on  the  Gigue  form. 

The  remaining  five  introductions  display  interesting  combinations  of 
fugue,  concerto,  and  da  capo  forms,  resembling  clavier  reductions  of 
movements  in  a  concerto  grosso.2  In  each  suite  Bach  uses  only  a  single 
pair  of  Galanterien,  consisting  of  two  dances  of  the  same  type,  the  first  in 
the  original  key  of  the  suite,  the  second  like  a  trio  in  the  parallel  key.  The 

1  Cf.  E.  Dannreuther,  'Musical  Ornamentation'  (1893-95),  Vx38- 

2  Following  a  suggestion  by  the  author  of  this  book,  the  introductions  to  the  suites 
Nos.  3  and  4  were  arranged  by  students  of  Boston  University  for  three  solo  instruments 
(violin,  oboe,  and  bassoon)  accompanied  by  strings  and  harpsichord;  these  new  versions 
were  extremely  effective. 

j.  Sebastian's  clavier  works  (1717-1750)  273 

number  of  voices  remains  constant  throughout  each  piece,  and  a  definite 
dance  character  is  in  evidence. 

The  exact  year  of  composition  of  the  English  Suites  is  not  known, 
but  it  seems  probable  that  Bach  was  engaged  in  their  composition  for 
many  years,  starting  at  an  early  date  and  ultimately  finishing  the  work  in 
Cothen.  The  English  Suites  contain  direct  references  to  music  by  other 
composers  of  the  kind  to  be  found  in  Bach's  first  two  creative  periods. 
Apart  from  the  aforementioned  relation  of  the  Prelude  to  No.  1  to  the 
Gigue  by  Dieupart,  there  is  a  resemblance  between  the  theme  starting 
the  Prelude  to  No.  2  and  the  fugue  subject  of  Corelli's  op.  III/4;1  while  the 
Gigue  of  No.  6  seems  to  be  fashioned  after  an  organ  composition  by 
Buxtehude.2  Moreover,  in  some  of  the  turbulent  Gigues  of  this  set  the 
spirit  of  Bach's  earlier  years  is  revived,  and  even  an  occasional  youthful 
volubility  is  noticeable  in  the  Allemandes.  On  the  other  hand,  the  didactic 
thoroughness  with  which  the  composer  elaborates  on  the  execution  of  the 
agrements  in  Suites  2  and  3,  writing  out  every  detail  and  taking  no  chance 
with  the  possible  incompetence  of  his  performers,  reflects  the  pedagogue 
Bach  of  the  Cothen  period.  The  descending  order  of  keys  used  for  the 
English  Suites  appears  like  a  counterpart  to  the  procedure  employed  in 
the  Inventions,  while  the  Sarabande  in  No.  3,  with  its  extensive  modula- 
tions and  the  use  of  even  an  enharmonic  change  {Ex.  60),  might  have 


been  written  at  the  same  time  as  the  Well-Tempered  Clavier.  Altogether 
the  English  Suites  show  a  rather  confusing  combination  of  earlier  and 
later  features  which  makes  it  seem  possible  that  they  were  begun  before, 
and  concluded  after,  the  French  Suites. 

The  six  French  Suites  {BWV  812-17)  are  shorter,  simpler,  and 
easier  to  play  than  the  'English'  set.  They  use  the  same  four  basic  dances, 
as  well  as  a  number  of  Galanterien,  but  they  have  no  introductory  move- 
ments, and  each  suite  begins  with  an  Allemande.  The  French  names  of  all 
the  movements  (while  the  Italian-type  Preludes  are  no  longer  in  evidence) 
may  have  been  responsible  for  the  designation  of  the  whole  set  as  French 

1  The  same  theme  was  also  used  by  Bach  as  a  basis  for  an  organ  fugue  (cf.  p.  247). 

2  Collected  Organ  Works,  I/94. 

274  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

Suites.  But  the  Italian  influence  has  not  really  disappeared;  it  only  shifts 
from  the  introduction  to  the  main  numbers.  In  four  suites  (Nos.  2,  4-6)  the 
Courantes  are  not  of  the  slow  and  deliberate  French  type,  but  show  the 
vivacious  character  of  the  fast  moving  Italian  Corrente  in  3/4  time.  Of 
still  greater  importance  are  the  graceful  and  supple  Italianized  melodies 
which  Bach  uses  here,  cleverly  combining  the  styles  of  the  two  nations. 
In  spite  of  their  apparent  facility,  these  suites  are  more  intricate  and 
show  greater  variety  than  the  earlier  set.  Bach  now  develops  his  themes, 
and  the  second  parts  of  the  dances  often  begin  with  the  main  subject  trans- 
ferred to  the  bass,  a  technique  he  used  again  later  in  the  Partitas.  There 
are  not  only  different  types  of  Courantes  but  also  several  kinds  of  Gigues, 
varying  in  rhythm  and  character.  Particularly  interesting  is  the  Gigue  in 
No.  1,  a  stately  composition,  resembling  the  introduction  of  a  French 
overture,  and  quite  unlike  the  usual  gay  and  carefree  finale  of  the  suite. 
Similar  diversities  may  be  noticed  in  the  Galanterien.  The  first  suite  intro- 
duces a  pair  of  dances  of  the  same  type,  the  second  two  different  dances, 
the  third  one  pair  and  one  separate  dance,  the  fourth  and  fifth  three 
different  dances,  and  the  sixth  four  different  ones.  Moreover  the  mood  of 
the  set  is  by  no  means  uniform.  The  first  three  suites  are  more  serious, 
while  the  second  half  of  the  work  displays  a  serene  and  even  joyful 
character.  These  are  the  most  compact,  the  most  unified,  and  in  a  way 
the  most  perfect  suites  Bach  has  written.  With  the  following  series  the 
disintegration  of  the  suite  form  sets  in. 

Bach's  third  collection  of  suites  (BWV  825-30)  was  published  (and 
possibly  also  engraved)  by  the  composer  himself.  Sebastian  was  41  when 
the  first  suite  appeared  in  1726,  and  each  subsequent  year  saw  the  publica- 
tion of  a  fresh  suite  until  in  173 1  the  whole  set  of  6  was  available  and 
designated  as  his  op.  I.  He  called  this  collection  Clavier  Ulung  (keyboard 
exercise)  and  each  individual  suite  Partita.  Both  these  titles  had  been 
employed  by  Kuhnau,  and  in  using  them  Bach  once  more  professed  him- 
self an  admirer  and  follower  of  his  great  predecessor  at  St.  Thomas'.  In 
the  traditional  sequence  of  the  four  main  dances  interspersed  with 
optional  movements  and  preceded  by  an  introduction  Bach  reverts  to  the 
form  of  the  English  Suites.  On  the  other  hand,  there  is  no  lack  of  pro- 
gressive features  pointing  towards  the  gradual  absorption  of  the  Suite  into 
the  18th-century  Sonata.  The  customary  order  of  the  movements  is  not 
uniformly  maintained.  In  Nos.  4  and  6  there  are  Galanterien  not  only 
between  Sarabande  and  Gigue,  but  also  between  Courante  and  Sarabande. 
Besides,  the  main  dances  do  not  always  preserve  their  typical  character. 
The  quietly  flowing  Allemande  of  the  earlier  sets  is  superseded  in  No.  6 

j.  Sebastian's  clavier  works  (1717-1750)  275 

by  a  dramatic  composition  with  dotted  rhythms.  In  addition  to  the 
French  Courante  (Nos.  2  and  4)  the  Italian  Corrente  type  (Nos.  1,  3,  5,  6) 
is  also  used,  while  the  Sarabandes  in  Nos.  3,  5  and  6  have  discarded  their 
original  stately  character.  Under  the  influence  of  Italian  music  the  Gigue 
in  No.  1  is  transformed  into  a  completely  homophonic  virtuoso  piece 
making  continuous  use  of  Scarlatti's  favourite  device — crossing  the 
hands.1  The  composer  fully  realized  that  his  dances  did  not  always  con- 
form to  the  customary  pattern,  and  he  accordingly  stressed  in  his  headings 
that  he  had  observed  the  traditional  tempo  only  (cf.  Tempo  di  Gavotta  in 
No.  6,  Tempo  di  Minuet  to  in  No.  5).  To  make  his  progressive  intentions 
perfectly  clear,  Bach  occasionally  avoids  both  the  traditional  names  and 
types  of  dances  altogether.  The  Burlesca  in  No.  3  might  be  considered  as 
a  kind  of  minuet,  while  the  Scherbo  in  the  same  suite  somewhat  resembles 
a  Gavotte.  In  No.  2  the  Gigue  is  replaced  by  a  Capriccio  which  only  in  its 
general  construction  approaches  the  character  of  the  original  movement. 
In  this  set  Bach  increasingly  employs  simple  phrases  and  periods  of  4,  8, 
12  and  16  measures.  The  forms  used  in  the  dances  are  as  unorthodox  as 
those  employed  in  the  second  part  of  the  Well-Tempered  Clavier.  The 
Sarabande  in  No.  4,  for  instance,  contains  important  elements  of  a  con- 
densed sonata  form:  exposition  with  initial  and  concluding  subject, 
richly  modulating  development  and  complete  recapitulation.  Although 
each  section  is  on  the  smallest  possible  scale  and  the  themes  are  not  yet 
clearly  separated  from  each  other,  the  germs  of  future  forms  are  clearly 
noticeable.  The  introductory  numbers  to  each  Partita  reveal  the  tremen- 
dous versatility  of  the  master.  The  Fantasia  heading  No.  3  is  a  kind  of 
two-part  invention,  the  Praeludium  in  No.  1  a  three-part  invention.  No.  6 
is  introduced  by  a  Toccata  with  a  fugue  in  the  middle,  while  the  Prae- 
amhulum2  in  No.  5  is  a  toccata  with  features  of  the  concerto.  No.  4  is 
preceded  by  a  French  Ouverture  and  No.  2  by  a  Sinfonia.  In  the  latter  the 
fusion  of  styles,  so  characteristic  of  the  mature  Bach,  is  in  full  evidence. 
While  the  Andante  of  the  middle  section  and  the  fast  finale  conform  to  the 
usual  idea  of  an  Italian  Sinfonia,  the  Grave  of  the  first  section  belongs  to  a 

1  How  strongly  a  younger  generation  felt  the  progressive  character  of  this  music 
is  shown  by  the  fact  that  the  aria  Je  t"  implore  in  Gluck's  Iphigenie  en  Tauride  is  to  some 
extent  fashioned  after  this  movement. 

2  In  the  Partitas  Bach  uses  not  only  French  headings  for  his  dances  and  introductory 
movements  but  also  Italian  and  even  Latin  names.  It  is  regrettable  that  several  later  editions 
corrected  the  master  by  changing  every  title  into  French.  Even  the  BG  and,  following  it, 
the  BWV  suppressed  the  distinction  between  Courante  and  Corrente  which  the  composer 
himself  made,  and  in  Nos.  i,  3,  5,  6  changed  the  Italian  form  of  the  original  tide  into  the 
conventional  French  form. 

276  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

French  overture.  Out  of  the  conventional  forms  of  the  two  nations  Bach 
created  a  new  type  which  is  entirely  his  own. 

The  single  Partita  (or  Ouverture  as  it  is  called  after  its  introductory 
movement)  in  b  {BWV  831)  which  Bach  included  in  the  second  part  of 
the  Clavier  Ubung,  published  in  1735,  is  similar  in  character  to  the  earlier 
set,  but  the  dissolution  of  the  suite  has  (partly  under  the  influence  of  the 
orchestra  suite)  progressed  even  further.  There  is  no  Allemande  in  this 
Partita,  and  Galanterien  are  inserted  both  before  and  after  the  Sarabande, 
and  even  after  the  Gigue.  The  last  movement  of  the  suite  is  a  delightful 
Echo  meant  to  display  the  dynamic  contrasts  available  on  a  harpsichord 
with  two  manuals.  Since  the  suite  was  expressly  designed  for  this  instru- 
ment, it  may  be  assumed  that  the  first  6  Partitas  were  also  intended 
primarily  as  harpsichord  music. 

The  Partita  is  preceded  in  the  original  edition  by  a  Concerto  in  the 
Italian  taste  (Italian  Concerto';  BWV '97 -i),  a  work  in  which  Bach  reverts 
to  his  Weimar  arrangements  of  violin  concertos.  Unlike  the  preludes  to 
some  of  the  English  Suites,  which  are  based  on  the  idea  of  adapting  a 
concerto  grosso  with  several  solo  instruments  to  the  keyboard,  this  'Con- 
certo' represents  the  clavier  arrangement  of  an  orchestral  work  with  a 
single  soloist,  the  exact  model  of  which  exists  in  the  composer's  imagina- 
tion only.  Vivaldi's  concerto  form  is  clearly  recognizable  in  the  brilliant 
first  movement,1  in  which  a  massive  tutti  section  in  the  tonic  serves  both 
as  introduction  and  conclusion.  Fragments  of  this  basic  idea  appear  at 
regular  intervals  but  transposed  to  related  keys  and  they  are  connected 
by  thematically  contrasting  and  modulating  solo  passages.  The  lofty 
middle  movement  sounds  like  a  broadly  extended  violin  solo  accompanied 
by  strings.  Particularly  clever  is  Bach's  method  of  suggesting  in  the 
accompaniment  a  pedal  point  of  the  string  basses  {Ex.  61).  In  the  dashing 


last  movement,  which  has  a  form  similar  to  that  of  the  initial  movement, 
some  of  the  phrases  in  the  main  tutti  seem  to  result  from  the  adaptation 
of  one-part  string  passages. 

In  spite  of  this  mock  realism  which  keeps  up  the  pretence  that  the 
composition  is  an  arrangement,  the  work  is  extremely  well  suited  to  the 

1  The  beginning  displays  a  striking  resemblance  to  the  theme  of  a  Sinfonia  in  Georg 
Muffat's  'Flonlegium  Primum'  (1695). 

j.  Sebastian's  clavier  works  (1717-1750)  277 

clavier.  Indeed,  not  only  from  a  musical  but  even^from  a  technical  point 
of  view  it  rates  among  Bach's  finest  keyboard  compositions.  The  Italian 
Concerto  displays  the  accomplished  master's  serenity  and  joy  in  supreme 
craftsmanship;  with  its  perfect  equilibrium  between  emotional  content  and 
musical  format  seems  ideally  suited  to  introduce  the  non-expert  into  the 
art  of  the  Thomas  Cantor. 

In  this  volume  of  the  Clavier  Ubung  Bach  gives  directions  for  the  use 
of  the  register  stops  of  the  harpsichord  with  two  manuals.  He  prescribes 
frequent  changes  between  forte  and  piano  and  even  likes  to  indicate  forte 
in  one  hand  and  piano  in  the  other  simultaneously.  He  apparently  wanted 
a  different  volume  of  tone  on  each  manual;  probably  two  strings  in  unison 
or  octaves  on  the  forte  manual,  and  single  strings  on  the  piano  clavier.  As 
a  rule  the  tutti  sections  are  to  be  played  by  both  hands  in  forte,  while  in  the 
solos  the  melody  is  forte  and  the  accompaniment  piano.  But  there  are  very 
attractive  deviations  from  this  rule  showing  that  Bach  was,  on  occasion, 
not  averse  to  a  dynamically  diversified  style. 

The  third  part  of  the  Clavier  Ubung  consists  of  organ  works  only.  The 
fourth  part,  published  in  1742,  is  again  written  for  a  harpsichord  with  two 
manuals,  according  to  the  indication  on  the  title.  It  contains  a  single  work, 
an  'Aria  with  30  Variations'  in  G  {BWV  988).  This  composition  was 
written  for  Bach's  pupil,  Goldberg,  and  is  usually  referred  to  as  the 
Goldberg  Variations.  Bach  wrote  no  other  clavier  composition  of  similar 
length  and  compactness.  It  demonstrates  the  consummate  technical  skill 
of  the  mature  master  combined  with  a  soaring  fantasy,  pointing,  parti- 
cularly in  the  treatment  of  the  instrument,  far  beyond  Bach's  own 

The  Sarabande  in  the  French  style,  which  forms  the  theme,  is  prob- 
ably not  by  the  master  himself.  It  dates  from  a  somewhat  earlier  period, 
and  already  appears  in  the  Notenbilchlein  for  Anna  Magdalena  of  1725. 
Bach  may  have  chosen  this  Aria  for  its  lucidity  of  form — two  parts  con- 
sisting of  sixteen  measures  each — and  for  its  plain,  yet  powerful  harmonic 
construction.  Here  the  composer  no  longer  uses  the  simple  technique  of 
his  early  variations  in  the  Italian  manner.  The  element  that  joins  the  Sara- 
bande and  its  variations  is  the  bass  line  of  the  theme  with  the  harmonic 
progressions  dependent  on  it.  This  bass  foundation  recurs  in  each  of  the 
30  variations,  although  it  does  not  always  appear  in  the  lowest  voice  (cf. 
var.  25).  Bach's  technique  is  inspired  by  passacaglia  and  chaconne,  but 

1  In  most  variations  Bach  indicated  whether  they  are  to  be  performed  on  a  single 
manual  or  on  two.  Those  for  two  manuals  call  for  an  even  more  advanced  technique  of 

278  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

differs  from  them  in  the  unusual  length  and  character  of  his  theme.  The 
problem  of  incorporating  the  same  bassline  into  30  effectively  contrasting 
variations  did -not  seem  big  enough  to^Bach.  Without  deviating  from  the 
variation  form  he  presents  in  his  set  9  different  kinds  of  canon,  one  in  every 
third  variation.  There  is  a  canon  at  the  unison,  one  at  the  second,  the  third, 
etc.  Each  time  the  interval  of  imitation  is  augmented  by  one  tone  until 
var.  27  ends  up  with  the  canon  at  the  ninth.  Besides,  the  canon  at  the  fifth 
(var.  15)  is  not  in  straight  imitation,  but  in  inversion.  There  is  also  a 
Fughetta  among  the  variations  (No.  10),  a  stately  French  Ouverture  with 
a  following  fugue  (No.  16),  and  in  the  finale  a  roguish  Quodlibet,  which 
fits  melodic  phrases  taken  from  two  comic  folksongs1  into  the  frame-work 
of  the  variations.  This  little  joke  probably  amused  the  master  particularly, 
because  it  alluded  to  the  humorous  habit  of  singing  several  folksongs 
simultaneously,  which  was  a  favourite  pastime  at  the  family  gatherings  of 
the  Bach  clan.  In  between  these  contrapuntally  elaborate  variations  are  a 
number  of  highly  diversified  character  pieces;  the  gay  and  vigorous  var. 
4,  the  gracefully  skipping  var.  7,  the  brilliant  var.  14,  the  light  var.  20  in 
the  manner  of  Scarlatti,  the  deeply  moving  chromatic  var.  25  (like  Nos. 
15  and  21  in  the  parallel  key),  and  the  magnificent  Nos.  28  and  29,  con- 
taining passages  which  vigorously  contradict  the  traditional  conception 
of  the  conservative  Bach  {Ex.  62).  The  mixture  of  the  strictest  logic  with 


imaginative  freedom  of  expression  that  manifests  itself  in  this  work  finds 
its  closest  analogy  in  similar  works  by  Beethoven  and  Brahms,  for  the 
1 8th  century  produced  little  or  nothing  in  this  field  that  could  stand  com- 
parison with  Bach's  gigantic  work.2  Yet  even  this,  his  supreme  achieve- 
ment in  the  field  of  clavier  music,  is  linked  to  the  past,  and  it  is  extremely 
significant  that  a  connection  can  be  established  between  the  Goldberg 
Variations  and  a  work  of  Sebastian's  greatest  forebear,  Johann  Christoph 
(cf.  p.  61). 

1  They  are:  Ich  bin  so  lang'  nicht  bei  dir  gewest  ('I  long  have  been  away  from  you')  and 
Kraut  und  Ruben  ('Cabbage  and  turnips'). 

2  Bach's  two  last  works,  the  Musical   Offering  and  the  Art  of  the  Fugue,  which 
have  a  certain  connection  with  the  clavier,  will  be  discussed  in  the  next  section. 

j.  Sebastian's  chamber  music  279 


Bach's  superb  craftsmanship,  exquisite  in  the  most  minute  details,  lent 
itself  especially  to  the  filigree  style  of  instrumental  chamber  music.  Some 
of  his  works  in  this  field  belong  to  the  most  inspired  compositions  he  ever 
wrote.  The  majority  owe  their  conception  to  Bach's  activity  in  Cothen, 
which  helped  him  to  develop  his  instrumental  style  to  supreme  mastery. 

Significantly  enough,  it  was  not  the  Sonata  for  a  solo  instrument  and 
figured  bass,  so  widely  used  in  his  time,  that  really  interested  him.  This 
traditional  form  was  not  too  well  suited  for  the  rich  polyphonic  and 
harmonic  texture  of  Bach's  musical  language.  His  3  Sonatas  and  the  Fugue 
for  violin  and  figured  bass  {BWV 1021,  1023-24,  1026)  as  well  as  the  3 
Sonatas  for  flute  and  figured  bass  {BWV  1033-35),  probably  products  of 
his  early  years  in  Cothen,  clearly  reveal  a  certain  indifference  towards  this 
type  of  music.1  Bach  felt  that  it  offered  both  too  much  and  too  little,  and 
there  is  a  certain  groping  for  new  musical  forms  in  these  works.  In  the 
Fugue  in  g  the  violin  part  is  frequently  treated  in  a  very  polyphonic 
manner,  while  the  bass  contains  one  rest  of  1 5  and  a  half  measures,  sub- 
sequently followed  by  20  measures  on  the  same  note  d.  A  similar  pedal 
point,  lasting  through  29  measures,  is  to  be  found  at  the  beginning  of  the 
Sonata  in  e.  Clearly  this  prepares  for  the  violin  compositions  sen^a  Basso. 
On  the  other  hand,  the  Violin  Sonata  in  G  also  exists  as  a  Trio  for  flute, 
violin,  and  figured  bass2  {BWV  1038),  a  type  which  appealed  far  more 
to  the  composer. 

In  1720  Bach  wrote  3  Sonatas  and  3  Partitas  for  violin  solo  {BWV 
1001-6)  and  at  about  the  same  time  6  Suites  for  violoncello  solo  {BWV 
1007-12),  which  count  among  the  most  powerful  creations  of  his  genius. 
Although  the  polyphonic  treatment  of  the  violin  had  been  used  in  Italy, 
and  particularly  in  Germany,  before  Bach's  time,  no  other  composer  had 
written  works  of  similar  grandeur  and  magnificence  for  this  instrument. 
Here  violin  and  'cello  are  used  not  so  much  as  singing  melody-instruments 
but  as  carriers  of  harmonic  and  polyphonic  expression.  Bach,  the  great 
fighter,  sets  himself  the  almost  impossible  task  of  writing  4-part  fugues 

1  The  4  Violin  Inventions  published  in  BG,  45  {BWV,  Anh.  173-76)  were  recognized 
as  works  by  Bonporti.  (Cf.  p.  267.) 

2  Even  if  F.  Blume's  assumption  (BJ,  1928)  is  correct  and  this  arrangement  is  not  by- 
Bach,  it  must  have  satisfied  him,  as  it  was  preserved  in  his  own  handwriting.  This  auto- 
graph which  Wilhelm  Rust  used  for  his  edition  of  the  Trio  in  BG,  9/221  is  lost  to-day. 

28o  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

and  complicated  harmonic  successions  for  a  single  and  unaccompanied 
stringed  instrument,  with  all  its  technical  limitations.  This  he  achieves  by 
making  the  utmost  demands  on  the  ability  of  the  player,  and  at  the  same 
time  taxing  the  imagination  and  perception  of  the  listener  to  the  very 
limit.  While  the  performer  can  never  present  more  than  two  notes  simul- 
taneously,1 Bach  expects  the  arpeggios  of  3  and  4  notes  and  even  succes- 
sions of  notes  to  be  understood  as  harmonic  unities. 

The  composer's  joy  in  experimenting  and  adapting  certain  stylistic 
devices  to  changed  conditions  had  previously  caused  him  to  use  features 
of  violin  technique  in  his  keyboard  compositions.  Here  the  process  is 
reversed,  and  he  adopts  basic  designs  of  keyboard  technique  in  his  music 
for  a  stringed  solo  instrument.  The  organistic  character  of  the  Fugue  in  C 
of  the  third  Sonata  is  particularly  noticeable;  in  a  completely  unprece- 
dented manner  it  employs  as  theme  a  chorale  melody  (Komm,  heiliger 
Geist).  The  implied  polyphony  and  the  rich  harmonic  texture  in  these 
compositions  have  their  counterpart  in  the  painted  architecture  of  the 
period,  with  its  simulated  collonades  and  vistas. 

It  is  characteristic  that  many  movements  from  these  Sonatas  were 
subsequently  transcribed  for  keyboard  instruments.2  In  all  these  cases 
the  implied  contrapuntal  writing  of  the  original  was  changed  with  the 
greatest  of  ease  into  real  polyphony. 

As  to  form,  the  3  Violin  Sonatas  all  use  the  4  movements  of  the  Church 
Sonata  (slow-fast-slow-fast)  with  a  fugue  in  the  second  place,  and  the  slow 
inner  movement  as  the  only  piece  in  a  different  key.  On  the  other  hand, 
the  3  Partitas,  which  in  the  autograph  alternate  with  the  Sonatas,  show  a 
great  variety  of  dance  forms.  The  first  consists  of  4  dances,  each  followed 
by  a  variation  ('Double');  the  third  omits  most  of  the  standard  movements 
and  replaces  them  by  free  intermezzi  in  the  manner  of  an  orchestral  suite. 

1  The  theory  expressed  by  Schering  (BJ,  1904)  and  Schweitzer  that  the  German 
players  of  Bach's  time  could  produce  full  chords  with  loosely  strung  bows  without 
resorting  to  arpeggios  was  refuted  by  Gustav  Beckmann  ('Das  Violinspiel  in  Deutschland 
vor  1700,'  1918)  and  Andreas  Moser  (BJ,  1920).  Nevertheless  attempts  were  made  to  build 
curved  bows  for  the  performance  of  Bach's  music  for  violin  solo  (cf.  'Bach  Gedenkschrift,' 
1950,  p.  75  and  foil.)-  Occasionally  (Sarabandes  of  the  Partitas  in  b  and  d)  Bach  prescribes 
chords  which  can  only  be  played  as  slow  arpeggios,  since  the  same  finger  is  required  on 
the  lowest  and  highest  string. 

2  The  fugue  of  the  Sonata  in  g  was  transcribed  for  the  organ  (BWV  539),  and  the 
whole  Sonata  in  a  and  the  first  movement  of  that  in  C  were  transcribed  for  the  clavier 
(BWV 964  and  968).  The  prelude  to  the  3rd  Partita  was  equipped  by  the  composer  with 
an  orchestral  accompaniment  and  in  this  form  used  as  introduction  to  Cantatas  Nos.  120a 
and  29.  There  is  also  a  version  for  lute  {BWV  1000)  of  the  fugue  from  the  Sonata 
in  g. 

j.  Sebastian's  chamber  music  281 

The  second  attaches,  at  the  end  of  the  series  of  dances,  the  famous 
Chaconne,  which  is  longer  than  all  the  4  preceding  movements  together 
and  overshadows  them  in  importance.  It  is  an  imposing  set  of  variations 
on  several,  closely  interrelated  8-measure  themes,  moulded  into  a  power- 
ful 3 -part  form  and  imbued  with  dramatic  power;  possibly  the  most 
stirring  example  of  the  'triumph  of  spirit  over  substance'  (Spitta)  Bach 
achieved  in  these  works. 

The  6  'Cello  Suites  do  not  present  so  great  a  variety  of  forms.  They  all 
start  with  a  prelude,  followed  by  Allemande,  Courante,  Sarabande,  2 
Galanterien  and  a  Gigue.  The  similarity  of  their  structure  to  that  of  the 
English  Suites  makes  it  appear  likely  that  these  two  works  were  written 
at  about  the  same  time.  The  fifth  Suite  is  composed  for  a  'cello,  of  which 
the  top  string  is  tuned  to  G  instead  of  A;  while  the  sixth  Suite  requires  an 
instrument  with  five  strings.1  Although  the  technical  limitations  in  the 
unwieldy  'cello  were  even  greater  than  in  the  violin,  thus  making  the 
inclusion  of  real  fugues  impossible,  Bach  succeeded  in  creating  works  of 
consummate  mastery,  equal,  if  not  superior,  to  his  music  for  violin  solo. 
In  the  Prelude  to  the  fourth  Suite,  for  instance,  he  achieves,  with  the 
simplest  means,  the  illusion  of  an  organ  pedal  point  used  as  a  foundation 
for  slowly  gliding  harmonies. 

While  the  master  reached  in  his  solo  sonatas  a  lonely  peak  of  grandeur 
to  which  for  a  long  time  nobody  dared  follow  him,  his  Trios  are  imbued 
with  stylistic  trends  which  were  to  prove  highly  important  for  the  future. 
Again  Bach  did  not  care  too  much  for  the  favourite  Baroque  type,  the 
Sonata  for  2  melody  instruments  supported  by  figured  bass.  His  output 
in  this  field  is  confined  to  2  Sonatas  in  G  {BWV  10382  and  BWV 
1039),  one  of  which  was  later  transcribed  into  a  Sonata  for  cembalo 
obbligato  and  viola  da  gamba  {BWV  1027).  The  procedure  which  the 
composer  adopted  here  is  as  simple  as  it  is  ingenious.  He  gave  one 
melodic  line  to  the  viola  da  gamba,  and  the  other  to  the  right  hand  of  the 
harpsichord  player,  while  the  bass  part  was  assigned  to  the  left  hand  of  the 
clavierist.  Such  'trios,'  in  which  the  keyboard  instrument  executed  two 
parts  and  a  string  or  wind  instrument  one,  were  used  at  least  a  century 

1  Such  a  violoncello  a  cinque  corde>  in  which  a  top  E  string  was  added  to  the  ordinary- 
four  strings  of  the  'cello,  was  used  occasionally  in  Bach's  time.  It  was  certainly  not  the 
viola  pomposa,  as  Schweitzer  assumes,  and  most  likely  not  the  violoncello  piccolo  either. 
Cf.  C.  Sachs  ('Musical  Instruments,'  New  York,  1940),  who  also  righdy  questions  the  old 
myth  that  Bach  was  the  'inventor'  of  the  viola  pomposa. 

2  Regarding  the  Sonata  for  flute,  violin  and  continuo  in  G  {BWV  1038),  cf.  p.  279. 
A  sonata  for  2  violins  in  C  {BWV  1037)  often  attributed  to  Bach  is  probably  the  work  of 
one  of  his  pupils. 

282  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

before  Bach,1  but  no  other  composer  employed  them  as  successfully  and 
systematically.  They  became  his  favourite  form  of  chamber  music  and  in- 
clude some  exquisite  pieces  like  the  6  Sonatas  for  harpsichord  and  violin 
{BWV 1014-19),  3  Sonatas  for  harpsichord  and  viola  da  gamba  {BWV 
1027-29),  and  3  Sonatas  for  harpsichord  and  flute  {BWV  1030-32). 

Bach's  zest  for  experimenting  made  him  break  with  the  traditional 
aspect  of  the  Trio  Sonata  in  many  other  ways  as  well.  Hitherto  this  had 
been  a  polyphonic  composition  in  which  the  two  upper  parts  had  equal 
shares  in  the  melodic  material.  The  composer  now  fused  it  with  elements 
of  the  Concerto,  using  da  capo  and  rondo  forms,  and  inserting  long  solo 
sections.  He  did  not  hesitate  at  times  to  employ  the  harpsichord  as  a  mere 
accompanying  instrument,  or  its  upper  part  as  a  unison  reinforcement  of 
the  melody.  Altogether  there  is  no  uniformity  in  these  Sonatas.  Bach  by 
no  means  confined  himself  to  writing  the  conventional  three  parts;  he 
occasionally  used  four  and  even  five  or  six  voices.  There  are  movements  in 
canonic  or  passacaglia  forms,  others  of  a  prelude-like  character.  Their 
number  also  varies;  three  movements  are  employed  in  the  flute  Sonatas, 
four  in  the  majority  of  the  violin  and  viola  da  gamba  Sonatas,  and  five  in 
the  last  violin  Sonata  (in  G).  The  variety  of  forms  is  matched  by  an  abun- 
dance of  different  emotions.  There  are  pieces  happy  and  gay,  energetic, 
stubborn,  tender,  sad,  melancholy,  or  tragic  in  character.  To  emphasize 
the  wide  emotional  range  of  this  music,  individual  movements  are  given 
such  descriptive  headings  as  'Andante  un  poco,'  'Adagio  ma  non  tanto,' 
that  are  not  too  common  in  Bach's  music. 

In  ascribing  the  Sonatas  for  violin  and  harpsichord  to  the  Cothen 
period,  Forkel  is  apparently  right,  at  least  as  far  as  their  first  draft  is  con- 
cerned. It  seems  most  likely  that  the  viola  da  gamba  Sonatas  also  origin- 
ated in  this  period,  as  Prince  Leopold  was  very  fond  of  this  instrument. 
On  the  other  hand,  the  flute  Sonatas  appear  to  be  products  of  a  later 
period.  The  Sonata  in  E  flat  shows  a  progressive  character  that  is  to  be 
found  in  Bach's  music  at  the  time  when  the  artistic  personalities  of  his 
eldest  sons  were  beginning  to  unfold.  Its  'Siciliano'  has  a  tender  sweetness 
that  seems  to  belong  to  the  period  of  Empfindsamkeit  (sensibility).  These 
works  may  have  been  written  for  the  eminent  Dresden  flutist,  P.  G. 
Buffardin,  with  whom  Bach  was  in  close  contact.  In  this  same  period  he 
also  revised  his  earlier  violin  Sonatas.  There  is  a  manuscript  written  by 
his  son-in-law,  Altnikol,  that  shows  significant  changes  in  the  original 
works.  The  Adagio  of  the  fifth  Sonata  increases  the  motion  of  the  accom- 

1  Cf.  Arnold  Schering,  'Zur  Geschichte  der  Solosonate  in  the  i.  Halfte  des  17. 
Jahrhunderts,'  in  'Riemann-Festschrift,'  1909. 

j.  Sebastian's  brandenburg  concertos  283 

panying  harpsichord  from  sixteenth  to  thirty-second  notes,  thus  creating 
a  prelude-like  composition  of  an  almost  impressionistic  character.  An 
earlier  version  of  the  sixth  Sonata  starts  with  a  movement  in  da  capo  form, 
which  is  repeated  again  after  three  slow  movements.  In  later  years  Bach 
found  this  too  monotonous;  he  retained  the  first  two  movements  and 
added  three  new  ones,  thus  creating  an  unorthodox  but  well-proportioned 
form:  fast-slow-fast-slow-fast,  with  a  movement  for  harpsichord  solo  in 
the  centre. 

These  different  Sonatas  show  Bach  again  and  again  exploring  all  the 
possibilities  to  be  derived  from  the  transformation  of  the  old  trio  into  a 
workable  duo  for  a  melody  instrument  and  clavier  obbligato.  Thus  he 
planted  new  seeds  for  the  growth  of  chamber  music;  his  own  sons  in 
particular  were  strongly  stimulated  by  their  father's  output  in  this  field. 

Bach's  Concertos  stand  at  the  very  centre  of  his  creative  output.  The 
composer's  interest  in  the  concertante  principle  and  the  concerto  form  had 
already  manifested  itself  in  his  early  works.  But  before  he  came  to  Cothen 
he  had  no  opportunity  to  write  real  concertos.  There  were  two  different 
paths  open  to  him:  he  could  follow  the  model  of  Corelli's  concerti  grossi, 
which  consisted  of  a  number  of  brief  movements  contrasting  in  character 
and  aiming  at  monumental  simplicity;  or  he  could  adopt  the  type  which 
had  been  given  its  definite  form  through  Vivaldi,  works  in  only  three 
movements  (fast-slow-fast),  emphasizing  the  concertante  principle,  and 
using  a  rondo-like  construction  for  the  fast  sections.  Bach,  while  not  over- 
looking the  possibilities  of  the  Corelli  type,  showed  a  decided  preference 
for  Vivaldi's  concertos,  as  their  compact  and  symmetrical  architecture 
appealed  to  him.  He  made  his  first  thorough  study  of  them  while  engaged 
in  arrangements  for  keyboard  instruments  in  Weimar  (cf.  p.  149).  How- 
ever, when  he  started  writing  concertos  of  his  own,  he  by  no  means  copied 
Vivaldi's  style,  but  imbued  it  with  new  ideas.  He  both  clarified  and  simpli- 
fied the  Italian  composer's  rondo-form,  presenting  a  straightforward 
eight-bar  ritornel  of  all  the  players  in  the  main  key  at  the  beginning  and 
end  of  the  movement,  while  fragments  from  it,  transposed  to  related  keys, 
appeared  within  the  movement  at  strategic  points.  Between  the  massive 
pillars  of  these  tutti  passages  are  the  graceful  garlands  of  the  solo  episodes, 
providing  modulating  connections  and  mostly  introducing  new  thematic 
material.  Bach  often  reinforced  the  architectural  solidity  by  using  the  da 
capo  form  of  the  Italian  aria,  or  a  chiastic  construction  (cf.  p.  202),  in 

284  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

which  not  only  the  first  and  last  parts  correspond,  but  a  firm  connection 
is  also  established  between  the  second  section  and  the  one  next  to  the  last. 
He  liked  to  combine  the  concerto  form  with  that  of  the  fugue,  and  even 
in  homophonic  movements,  figurations  of  the  solo  instrument  are 
accompanied  by  thematic  ideas  derived  from  the  main  ritornel  {Ex.  63) 
in  a  way  we  would  look  for  in  vain  in  a  Vivaldi  concerto. 

randenburg  Concerto H2H,  first  movement 

It  seems  strange  that  only  two  Concertos  for  violin  solo  and  orchestra 
and  one  for  two  violins  and  orchestra  (BWV  1041-43 ;  all  three  were 
probably  written  in  Cothen)  should  be  preserved,  while  there  are  more 
than  twice  as  many  transcriptions  of  such  works  for  solo  harpsichord  and 
strings  in  existence  (cf.  pp.  288-89).  -Did  Bach  discard  some  of  the  original 
compositions  as  soon  as  the  arrangements  were  completed;  did  these  models 
only  exist  in  his  imagination  and  were  never  put  to  paper;  or  were  some 
violin  concertos  lost  after  his  death?  These  questions  will  probably  never 
be  answered;  anyway,  judging  from  the  transcriptions,  we  may  safely  say 
that  the  three  works  preserved  must  have  been  among  the  very  best  Bach 
wrote  in  this  field. 

The  first  movement  of  the  Violin  Concerto  in  E,  written  in  da  capo 
form,  is  typical  of  the  supreme  mastery  with  which  solo  instrument  and 
accompanying  orchestra  confront  each  other  and  at  other  times  join 
forces.  In  the  Concerto  in  a,  on  the  other  hand,  the  initial  movement 
anticipates  features  of  the  Sonata  form  in  a  manner  which  was  to  be 



adopted  before  long  by  Friedemann  and  Emanuel  Bach.  The  slow  move- 
ments in  these  two  concertos  exhibit  a  kind  of  ostinato  bass,  the  serious 
character  of  which  contrasts  most  effectively  with  the  poignant  sweetness 
of  the  solo  violin.  Of  equal  beauty  is  the  slow  movement  of  the  Double 
Concerto,  one  of  the  most  intimate  and  subjective  cantilenas  Bach  ever 
wrote.  While  the  orchestra  is  used  here  merely  to  support  the  soloists,  the 
finale  presents  remarkable  instances  of  the  inversion  of  the  traditional 
relationship  between  soloists  and  orchestra.  The  solo  violins  are  entrusted 
with  broad  organistic  chords,  while  the  melody  is  supplied  in  vigorous 
unison  by  the  orchestra1  {Ex.  64). 



The  six  so-called  Brandenburg  Concertos  (BWV  1046-51),  which 
Bach  dedicated  in  the  spring  of  172 1  to  Christian  Ludwig,  Margrave  of 
Brandenburg  (cf.  p.  160),  are  not  concertos  for  a  single  solo  instrument, 
but  examples  of  older  forms  of  concerted  music,  showing,  in  the  German 
fashion,  a  preference  for  wind  instruments.  In  three  of  them  (Nos.  1,  3,  6) 
the  orchestra  is  composed  of  evenly  balanced  instrumental  choirs,  which 
toss  the  themes  to  and  fro  among  themselves  in  charming  conversation, 
only  occasionally  surrendering  the  lead  to  a  single  instrument  out  of  their 
midst.  Such  compositions,  based  upon  the  old  Venetian  canzone  with  its 
contrasting  instrumental  choirs,  are  known  as  'concerto  symphonies.' 
There  are  also  3  concerti  grossi  in  the  set  (Nos.  2,  4,  5)  in  which  an 
accompanying  orchestra,  the  ripieni,  is  confronted  by  the  concertino 
consisting  of  three  or  four  solo  instruments. 

Even  the  Bach  student,  who  expects  the  utmost  variety  in  every  work 
of  the  master,  is  amazed  at  the  abundance  of  changing  scenes  in  these  six 
works  conjured  up  by  the  composer's  inexhaustible  imagination.  No.  2, 
which  in  its  perfect  structural  proportion  seems  like  the  very  prototype 

1  The  first  movement  of  this  Concerto  is  influenced  by  Torelli's  Violin  Concerto 
No.  8,  known  to  Bach  from  an  organ  arrangement  by  his  friend,  J.  G.  Walther.  Cf.  Schering, 
'Geschichte  des  Instrumentalkonzerts,'  Leipzig,  1905. 

286  the  Bach  family 

of  the  concerto  grosso,  employs  a  concertino  of  trumpet,  recorder,  oboe, 
and  violin.  Of  particular  colouristic  appeal  is  the  use  of  the  brass  instru- 
ment in  the  high  clarino  register;  indeed,  the  trumpet  is  treated  in  so 
brilliant  a  manner  that  the  concerto  grosso  at  times  assumes  the  char- 
acter of  a  solo  concerto.  The  same  is  true  of  No.  4,  with  a  concertino 
of  2  recorders  and  a  violin,  where  far  greater  demands  on  the  virtuosity 
of  the  violinists  are  made  than  in  any  of  Bach's  concertos  for  this  instru- 
ment. Likewise  in  No.  5,  written  for  a  concertino  of  flute,  violin,  and 
harpsichord,  the  keyboard  instrument  predominates  and  even  has  an  un- 
accompanied solo  cadenza  of  65  measures  in  the  first  movement.  For  the 
first  time  the  humble  harpsichord,  whose  role  in  ensembles  had  always 
been  that  of  supporting  other  instruments,  assumes  the  proud  part  of  a 
leader.  Unlike  the  majority  of  Bach's  concertos  for  clavier  solo  and 
orchestra,  this  work  was  obviously  intended  for  the  clavier  from  the  out- 
set; it  thus  constitutes  a  milestone  in  the  history  of  music  as  the  first 
original  clavier  concerto  ever  written.  Maybe  Bach,  who  played  the  part 
himself,  was  inspired  to  compose  it  by  the  exquisite  'clavecyn'  he  had 
purchased  in  171 9  for  his  Prince  in  Berlin.1  As  in  Concerto  No.  2,  the 
middle  movement  uses  solo  instruments  and  bass  only,  thus  assuming  the 
character  of  real  chamber  music.  The  symphonic  Concerto  No.  1  employs 
the  tiny  violino  piccolo  (a  third  above  the  ordinary  violin  and  shriller  in 
tone)  together  with  6  wind  instruments,  strings,  and  continuo.  The  tradi- 
tional 3  movements  are  followed  by  a  gay  Minuet  with  3  graceful  trios 
meant  to  provoke  applause,  like  the  licenia  at  the  end  of  a  contemporary 
comic  opera.  The  third  Concerto  introduces  3  powerful  choirs  of  strings, 
each  subdivided  again  into  3  parts.  In  order  not  to  break  up  the  gay  mood, 
Bach  omits  the  slow  middle  movement,  inserting  in  its  place  a  simple 
cadence,  and  he  achieves  the  necessary  contrast  by  using  the  two-part 
form  of  contemporary  dances  for  the  second  fast  movement.  The  most 
unusual  scoring  is  to  be  found  in  No.  6  written  for  2  viole,  2  viole  da 
gamba,  'cello  and  continuo,  while  omitting  wind  instruments  and  even 
violins,  and  it  seems  to  reflect  the  peculiar  conditions  at  Cothen.2  The  most 
striking  feature  is  the  canon  at  a  distance  of  one  eighth  note  in  the  ritornel 
of  the  first  movement.  Bach's  pupil,  J.  P.  Kirnberger,  used  this  in  his 
Kunst  des  reinen  Sat^es  as  an  illustration  for  counterpoint  in  its  strictest 

1  No  less  than  130  dialers  were  paid  to  Bach  for  this  instrument,  plus  his  travelling 

2  Cf.  Smend,  I.e.  The  Prince  wanted  a  viola  da  gamba  solo,  which  was  therefore 
planned  with  not  too  great  difficulties.  Bach  chose  for  his  own  part  his  favourite,  the 
viola,  and  therefore  entrusted  it  with  an  interesting  task. 

j.  Sebastian's  orchestral  suites  287 

form.  It  is  characteristic  of  the  non-academic  quality  of  Bach's  music, 
however,  that  the  hearer  who  does  not  realize  the  polyphonic  intricacy 
will  yet  derive  immense  enjoyment  from  the  gaiety  and  brilliance  of  this 
work.  In  all  the  Brandenburg  Concertos  the  strong  rhythmic  life  and  the 
inspired  colouristic  garb  contribute  towards  loosening  up  and  dissolving 
the  solidity  of  the  polyphonic  texture.  These  compositions  seem  to  em- 
body the  splendour  and  effervescence  of  court  life  at  Cothen,  and,  more- 
over, they  clearly  reveal  the  composer's  delight  in  writing  for  a  group  of 
highly  trained  instrumentalists.  There  is  an  exuberance  and  optimism  in 
this  music  that  only  a  genius  aware  of  his  newly  achieved,  full  mastery 
could  call  forth.  Craftsmanship  and  inspiration,  iron  logic  and  zest  for 
experimenting,  here  counterpoise  each  other  to  an  extent  rarely  equalled 
again  even  by  Bach  himself. 

The  two  Orchestral  Suites*-  in  C  and  b  {BWV 1066-67)  also  belong  to 
the  Cothen  period,  while  two  other  works  of  the  same  kind,  both  in  D 
{BWV  1068-69),  were  probably  written  between  1727  and  1736.2  To 
some  extent  these  compositions  show  features  linking  them  to  Bach's  con- 
certos. The  overture  and  some  of  the  dances  in  the  Suite  in  b  for  flute  and 
strings  use  the  woodwind  instrument  with  such  virtuosity  that  they  appear 
like  movements  in  a  flute  concerto.  The  Suite  in  C  for  2  oboes,  bassoon, 
and  strings,  on  the  other  hand,  occasionally  employs  a  concertino  of  the  3 
wind  instruments,  thus  assuming  the  character  of  a  concerto  grosso. 
The  second  Suite  in  D,  for  3  trumpets  with  timpani,  3  oboes  with  bassoon, 
and  strings,  makes  the  3  choirs  compete  with  each  other  in  a  manner  not 
unlike  a  concerto  symphony.  The  initial  movement  of  all  four  Suites  is  a 
French  Ouverture  in  which  two  slow  movements  are  separated  by  a  fast 
fugue  frequently  combined  with  the  concerto  form,  the  entrances  of  the 
theme  in  the  full  orchestral  body  being  employed  as  ritornels,  and  the 
connecting  and  modulating  episodes  as  solos.  These  overtures  are 
followed  in  each  case  by  a  free  succession  of  dances  often  arranged  in 
pairs,  and  by  little  programmatic  pieces,  such  as  the  high-spirited 
Badinerie  (banter)  in  the  Suite  in  b,  the  buoyant  Rejouissance  (rejoicing) 
in  the  second  Suite  in  D,  and  the  meditative  Airz  in  the  first  Suite  in  D. 
In  spite  of  the  French  titles  and  French  forms,  the  orchestral  Suites  are 
true  products  of  German  soil,  inspired  as  they  are  by  the  folklore  of  the 
country.  This  is  joyful,  radiant  music,  in  which  the  composer  does  not 

1  Regarding  the  relation  to  J.  Bernhard  Bach's  orchestral  suites,  cf.  p.  101. 

2  The  authenticity  of  a  5th  Suite  in  g  (BWV  1070)  is  very  doubtful. 

3  This  beautiful  movement  is  best  known  in  an  arrangement  for  solo  violin  to  be 
played  on  the  G  string. 



overwhelm  us  with  his  stupendous  mastery,  but  rather  captivates  our 
hearts  with  sparkling  wit  and  serene  charm. 

An  impressive  array  of  concertos  was,  we  might  almost  say,  manu- 
factured during  the  Leipzig  years.  At  that  time  the  need  for  'clavieristic' 
material  was  pressing  as  Bach's  sons  needed  effective  compositions, 
especially  for  their  appearances  in  the  Collegium  Musicum.  Bach  had 
recourse  to  the  method  he  had  used  in  his  trios  with  harpsichord  obbligato. 
He  gave  the  solo  part  of  a  previously  composed  violin  concerto  to  the 
right  hand  of  the  keyboard  player,  whose  left  hand  reinforced  the  bass 
of  the  composition,  and  a  clavier  concerto  with  accompanying  strings  was 
produced.  Such  arrangements  actually  exist  of  the  two  violin  concertos 
in  E  and  a  as  well  as  of  the  fourth  Brandenburg  Concerto  {BWV  1054, 
1057-58).  Three  other  clavier  concertos  {BWV  1052,  1055-56)  evidently 
originated  in  the  same  way.  The  violin  concertos  on  which  they  are  based, 
however,  have  not  survived.  In  such  adaptations  Bach  transposed  the 
pitch  of  the  original  composition  one  tone  down,  since  the  claviers  of  his 
time  as  a  rule  only  went  up  to  d'"  and  did  not  have  e'",  the  traditional  top 
note  of  his  violin  concertos.1  Bach  was  naturally  not  satisfied  mechanically 
to  transfer  the  violin  part  to  the  right  hand  of  the  clavierist.  He  often 
wrote  and  rewrote  the  same  arrangement  several  times,  and  in  the  course 
of  this  process  his  language  became  increasingly  idiomatic.  The  bass  part 
was  enriched  and  middle  voices  were  added,  as  the  last  movement  of  the 
Concerto  in  d  {BWV  1052)  exemplifies  {Ex.  65).  This  is  a  vigorous 

The  /trytr  ncttx  are  found  in*.n  *dr/y  ytrmloitj  in.  a  IzLar  Arrangement  S&ch&dded  the  note*  reproduced  in  smd.lHr  type. 

composition,  full  of  dramatic  life  which,  if  we  may  judge  from  its  different 
versions,  seems  to  have  been  a  favourite  with  Sebastian.  In  the  Concerto 
in  f  {BWV  1056)  the  original  violinistic  character  is  particularly  notice- 
able, and  it  induced  Gustav  Schreck  to  attempt  a  reconstruction  of  the 

1  Cf.  Howard  Shanet  in  MQ,  1950.  Contradictory  theories  regarding  the  originals 
which  served  Bach  for  his  arrangements  have  been  propounded  by  Spiro,  Aber,  Hirsch 
and  others.  Cf.  'Zeitschrift  der  Internationalen  Musikgesellschaft,'  XI,  iooj  BJ,  1913, 
1929,  1930. 

j.   Sebastian's  clavier  concertos  289 

original  violin  concerto  in  the  key  of  g.1  A  Concerto  for  harpsichord, 
flute  and  violin  with  strings  {BWV  1044)  uses  the  same  combination  of 
instruments  as  Brandenburg  No.  5.  It  is  an  arrangement  of  a  prelude  and 
fugue  for  clavier  from  the  Weimar  period  (cf.  p.  263),  which  was  parti- 
cularly suited  for  transcription,  as  both  its  sections  showed,  from  the  out- 
set, elements  of  the  concerto  form.  Bach  not  only  enlarged,  but  deepened 
the  original,  enhancing  the  power  and  dignity  of  the  first  version.  Between 
the  two  fast  movements  he  inserted  a  slow  one  from  his  organ  trio  in  d, 
which  he  scored  in  the  traditional  manner  for  the  solo  instruments  only, 
omitting  the  accompanying  strings. 

Similarly,  of  the  six  Concertos  for  two,  three  and  four  claviers  respec- 
tively with  string  accompaniment,  not  one  seems  to  represent  the  form  in 
which  it  was  originally  written.  That  for  four  claviers  {BWV  1065)  is  an 
arrangement  of  Vivaldi's  Concerto  for  4  violins  op.  3/ 10,  and  it  seems  quite 
possible  that  the  two  Concertos  for  three  claviers  {BWV  1063-64)  are 
also  based  on  works  by  other  composers.  The  two  Concertos  for  two 
claviers  in  c  {BWV  1060,  1062)  are  adaptations  of  his  own  works.2  Some- 
what different  is  the  situation  in  the  case  of  the  Concerto  for  two  claviers 
in  C  {BWV  1061).  Here  there  is  no  trace  of  the  violinistic  character 
conspicuous  in  the  other  adaptations.  It  has  the  appearance  of  an  original 
clavier  composition,  and  as  a  matter  of  fact  the  two  solo  parts  exist  in 
autographs.  However,  as  the  accompanying  voices,  which  are  not  pre- 
served in  Bach's  own  writing,  are  mainly  reinforcing  the  parts  of  the  key- 
board instruments,  it  seems  quite  likely  that  the  orchestration  was  a  later 
addition,  and  that  the  work  was  originally  written  for  two  claviers  only. 
It  might  be  mentioned  in  this  connection  that  there  also  exists  in  Sebas- 
tian's hand  a  Concerto  a  duoi  cembali  concertati  without  any  accompani- 
ment, which  his  son,  Friedemann,  composed  at  an  early  age  (cf.  p.  321), 
possibly  under  the  influence  of  the  Concerto  in  C. 

In  these  concertos  for  two  to  four  claviers  Bach  was  confronted  by 
the  difficulty  of  having  similar  bass  lines  in  the  various  solo  parts.  He 
tried  to  counteract  the  resulting  monotony  by  using  the  claviers  in  turns 
as  solo  and  as  filling  continuo  instruments.  In  the  Concerto  in  d  for  three 
claviers,  the  first  harpsichord  is  given  far  more  of  the  solo  material  than 
the  other  two.  A  better  balance  is  reached  in  the  solemn  and  brilliant 
Concerto  in  C  for  the  same  combination.  Although  these  arrangements 

1  Peters  Edition,  No.  3069a.  A  different  adaptation  of  this  Concerto  was  made  by 
J.  B.  Jackson  for  Oxford  University  Press. 

2  BWV  1062  is  based  on  the  concerto  for  2  violins  in  d;  stylistic  reasons  point  to 
similar  conditions  for  BWV  1060,  although  its  model  is  not  known. 

290  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

show  the  hand  of  the  artisan  rather  than  that  of  the  artist,  they  are  highly 
attractive  ensemble  music,  radiating  joyous  strength  and  vitality. 

It  is  significant  that  clavier  concertos  formed  the  basis  for  further 
arrangements.  With  minor  or  major  changes  they  made  excellent  intro- 
ductions to  cantatas,  and  at  times  the  composer  even  adapted  them  into 
vocal  numbers.1  Once  more,  this  furnishes  evidence  for  Bach's  conception 
of  the  unity  of  music. 

In  his  last  period  of  composition  only  two  ensemble  works  were 
written,  but  they  are  among  the  greatest  Bach  ever  created. 

The  Musical  Offering  (BWV  1079)  belongs  to  the  series  of  contra- 
puntal variations  favoured  by  Bach  during  the  latter  part  of  his  life  (cf. 
p.  206).  This  time  the  basis  of  the  variations  is  the  'truly  royal  theme* 
which  King  Friedrich  of  Prussia  offered  for  elaboration  during  Bach's 
visit  to  the  Palace  at  Potsdam2  (Ex.  66).  Bach  felt  that  he  had  by  no 

means  exhausted  all  the  possibilities  of  the  theme  in  his  improvisations 
before  the  King.  He  therefore  worked  on  it  after  his  return  to  Leipzig, 
and  the  result  seemed  so  highly  satisfying  to  him  that  he  had  the  whole 
cycle  engraved.  Composition  and  production  must  have  proceeded  very 
rapidly,  since  the  printed  dedication  to  the  King  is  dated  July  7,  1747,  the 
actual  visit  having  taken  place  just  two  months  earlier.  Apparently  the 
composer  wanted  to  send  his  Offering  at  a  time  when  the  memory  of  his 
visit  was  still  fresh  in  the  mind  of  his  host. 

1  The  first  movement  of  the  Clavier  Concerto  in  E  was  transposed  to  D,  the  solo 
given  to  the  concertante  organ,  and  3  oboes  were  added,  in  which  form  it  appeared  as 
introduction  to  Cantata  No.  169.  The  Siciliano  of  this  Concerto  was  employed  with  an 
added  vocal  part  for  an  aria  in  the  same  Cantata,  while  the  last  movement  with  added  oboe 
d'amore  made  up  the  introductory  Sinfonia  in  Cantata  No.  49.  All  3  movements  of  the 
Clavier  Concerto  in  d  were  used  as  the  introduction  to  Cantata  No.  188,  the  solo  being 
again  taken  over  by  the  organ.  Incidentally,  the  first  movement  of  Brandenburg  Concerto 
No.  1  was  used  unchanged  as  introduction  to  Cantata  No.  52,  and  that  of  Brandenburg 
No.  3,  with  2  obbligato  horns  and  3  oboes  added,  as  introduction  to  Cantata  No.  174. 

2  It  seems  unlikely  that  Bach  changed  the  idea  given  to  him  by  the  King,  as  Hermann 
Keller  suggests  in  'Das  konigliche  Thema,'  'Musica,'  1950.  Such  an  action  would  have 
annoyed  the  King,  who  was  a  good  enough  musician  to  remember  what  theme  he  had 
given  Bach. 


The  great  speed  of  its  production  may  have  been  partly  responsible 
for  the  disconnected  form  of  the  original  publication.  The  composer 
seems  to  have  sent  his  manuscript  in  instalments,  and  the  engraver1  put 
it  on  copper  whenever  a  batch  arrived,  at  the  same  time  taking  good  care 
to  fill  each  of  the  costly  plates  as  completely  as  possible  by  inserting  short 
canons  into  spare  places.  Accordingly,  the  original  edition  presents  the 
work  in  four  separate  sections  printed  partly  on  oblong  paper,  and  partly 
in  upright  form.  The  confusing  arrangement  which  resulted  made  it  diffi- 
cult for  earlier  students  fully  to  comprehend  the  architecture  of  the  work. 
Indeed,  so  outstanding  an  expert  as  Spitta  describes  the  Musical  Offering 
as  'a  strange  conglomerate  of  pieces,  wanting  not  only  internal  connection 
but  external  uniformity.'  Actually  the  work  shows  the  perfect  construc- 
tion which  we  may  expect  of  a  composition  written  by  Bach  at  the  peak 
of  his  mastery.2  At  the  beginning  stands  a  three-part  Ricercar  (fugue),3 
at  the  end  a  six-part  Ricercar;  in  the  centre  a  Trio  sonata  containing  two 
fugues.  Between  the  first  Ricercar  and  Trio  are  5  two-part  Canons,  to 
which  in  a  third  voice  the  r.t.  (royal  theme)  is  added  as  a  cantus  firmus. 
The  central  Trio  is  again  followed  by  5  Canons,  this  time  using  the  r.t.  and 
its  variations  as  subject  for  the  actual  canonic  elaboration.  It  is  character- 
istic of  Bach's  unerring  feeling  for  form  that  the  first  of  the  Trio  sonata's 
fugues,  written  in  concerto  style  and  da  capo  form,  introduces  the  r.t.  as  a 
cantus  firmus  as  the  preceding  5  Canons  had  done.  In  the  second  fugue,  on 
the  other  hand,  a  variation  of  the  r.t.  is  employed  as  a  subject,  thereby 
anticipating  the  technique  of  the  following  5  Canons.  Thus  the  13  numbers 
derived  from  the  r.t.  appear  in  the  following,  strictly  chiastic  order: 

Trio  Sonata 

Ricercar            5  Canons           1st  fugue           2nd  fugue  5  Canons              Ricercar 

3-part   fugue    using  r.t.  as    using  r.t.  as    using  r.t.  as  subjecting         6-part  fugue 

based  on  r.t.    cantus  firmus    cantus  firmus         fugue  r.t.  to  canonic      based  on  r.t. 

subject  elaboration 

The  first  and  the  last  Ricercar  are  written  for  clavier.4  They  are 
directly  connected  with  the  visit  to  Potsdam,  when  Bach  improvised  on 

1  It  was  Bach's  pupil,  J.  G.  Schiibler,  who  also  engraved  the  composer's  last 
organ  chorales. 

*  Cf.  H.  T.  David's  edition  of  the  work  and  accompanying  booklet  published  by 
G.  Schirmer,  New  York,  1945. 

3  Bach  uses  the  expression  Ricercar  here  to  designate  an  instrumental  fugue  employing 
elements  of  the  vocal  style. 

*  The  original  edition  prints  the  second  Ricercar  in  open  score,  but  it  can  be  per- 
formed without  difficulty  by  a  single  clavier  player,  and  Bach's  autograph  presents  it  on 
2  staves  only. 

292  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

one  of  the  King's  pianofortes  a  three-part  fugue  based  on  the  r.t.,  bu 
evaded  the  suggestion  of  employing  the  same  subject  in  a  six-part  fugue. 
The  six-part  composition  which  the  master  played  in  Potsdam  was  on  a 
theme  of  his  own  choice,  and  the  elaboration  of  the  r.t.  was  carried  out 
only  after  his  return.  Accordingly  the  two  Ricercars  are  quite  different  in 
character.  The  first  (incidentally,  Bach's  only  piece  that  we  know  to  have 
been  written  for  the  modern^  pianoforte)  lacks  the  complete  logic  and 
perfect  balance  of  the  last;  it  obviously  represents  Bach's  improvisation 
and  may  be  taken  as  an  example  of  his  extemporizing  in  strict  forms.  The 
six-part  Ricercar,  on  the  other  hand,  belongs  to  the  most  outstanding 
fugues  Bach  ever  wrote.  It  is  a  work  of  the  largest  proportions,  whose 
profundity  of  thought,  magnificent  poise,  and  loftiness  of  sound  make  it 
one  of  the  greatest  monuments  of  polyphonic  music. 

While  in  these  two  works  for  the  clavier  the  composer  seems  to  stand 
in  the  foreground,  the  remaining  eleven  numbers  appear  to  be  destined 
for  the  exalted  personage  to  whom  the  work  is  dedicated.  These  are 
chamber  music  compositions,  two  of  which  (the  Trio  and  one  canon) 
expressly  prescribe  the  use  of  a  flute  for  the  top  voice,  while  in  .the  majority 
of  the  others,  although  no  instrumentation  is  indicated,  the  highest  part 
can  be  taken  over  by  this  favourite  instrument  of  the  King.1  The  ten 
canons  are  predominantly  retrospective  in  character;  in  the  best  traditions 
of  the  past,  canons  in  unison  and  octave,  canons  of  the  inversion  and 
augmentation,  'crab'  canons  as  well  as  a  canonic  fugue2  are  introduced. 
Bach's  presentation  of  the  canons  tests  the  efficiency  of  the  performer;  as 
a  rule  they  are  not  printed  in  full  score;  in  two  cases  not  even  a  clue  as  to 
the  manner  of  imitation  is  given,  and  the  composer  provokingly  remarks 
'quaerendo  invenietis'  (if  you  seek,  you  will  find).  Here  the  'puzzle 
canons'  of  the  late  Middle  Ages  are  being  resurrected;  and  similarly  Bach's 
neglecting  to  indicate  on  what  instrument  most  of  his  two-,  three-  and 

1  The  copy  which  Bach  sent  to  his  royal  patron  contains  several  Latin  inscriptions 
to  the  King.  On  the  first  page  is  an  acrostic,  the  first  letters  of  which  formed  the  word 
'Ricercar':  Regis  Iussu  Cantio  et  Reliqua  Canonica  Arte  resoluta  (According  to  the  order  of 
the  King  the  tune  and  the  remainder  are  resolved  with  canonic  art).  To  the  Canon  in 
augmentation  the  composer  wrote:  Notulis  crescentibus  crescat  fortuna  Regis  (May  the 
fortune  of  the  King  grow  with  the  length  of  the  notes),  and  similarly  the  spiral  canon  bears 
the  annotation:  Ascendenteque  modulatione  ascendat  Gloria  Regis  (And  may  the  Glory  of  the 
King  rise  with  the  rising  modulation). 

2  In  a  canon  of  the  inversion  the  imitating  voice  answers  each  step  upward  with  a 
similar  step  downward,  and  vice  versa;  in  a  canon  in  augmentation  every  note  of  the 
imitating  voice  is  longer  (usually  twice  as  long)  than  in  the  original;  in  a  crab  canon  the 
imitating  voice  proceeds  backward,  starting  with  the  last  note  and  ending  with  the  first; 
a  canonic  fugue  combines  features  of  canon  and  fugue. 

j.  Sebastian's  art  of  the   fugue  293 

four-part  canons  are  to  be  performed  re-creates  the  situation  of  earlier 
centuries,  when  the  players  used  the  instrument  that  happened  to  be  avail- 
able at  the  moment.  However,  the  solid  harmonic  foundation  of  these 
contrapuntal  masterpieces  and  the  idea  of  a  spiral  canon  belong  to  Bach's 
own  time.  This  Canon  per  tonos  (canon  through  the  keys)  modulates  in 
its  8  measures  one  whole  tone  up;  it  has  to  be  performed  six  times  before 
all  the  parts  once  more  reach  the  original  key  of  c.  Also  a  typical  product 
of  the  1 8th  century  is  the  Trio  for  flute,  violin,  and  continuo,  the  heart  of 
the  whole  work.  It  is  a  church  sonata  of  great  dignity  and  beauty,  the 
most  outstanding  among  Bach's  trios. 

Altogether  the  Musical  Offering  appears  as  the  work  of  a  master  who 
is  drawing  conclusions  not  only  from  the  experience  of  a  lifetime,  but 
from  that  of  a  whole  era.  It  presents  in  a  compact  and  monumental  form 
a  synthesis  of  the  musical  thought  of  three  centuries. 

The  Art  of  the  Fugue  (BWV '1080)  is  Bach's  last  great  composition. 
The  master  seems  to  have  been  engaged  in  this  tremendous  task  after 
the  completion  of  the  Musical  Offering,  and  in  this  case,  too,  he  planned 
to  have  the  work  become  generally  known  through  print.  He  supervised 
part  of  the  engraving,  but  before  it  was  quite  finished,  and  before  he  even 
had  a  chance  of  completing  his  manuscript,  death  overtook  him.  The  Art 
of  the  Fugue  remained  a  torso,  and  neither  the  autograph  nor  the  original 
printing  issued  after  Bach  had  gone,  can  give  an  exact  idea  of  his  inten- 
tions. There  are  doubts  regarding  the  precise  order  in  which  the  individual 
numbers  were  to  be  arranged;  we  do  not  know  what  end  the  composer 
had  planned  for  his  work,  and  it  is  possible  that  even  the  title,  Art  of 
the  Fugue,  was  not  conceived  by  Bach  himself. 

Yet,  the  sections  which  we  have  are  of  such  awe-inspiring  majesty 
that  even  in  its  fragmentary  form  the  Art  of  the  Fugue  appears  as  one  of 
the  greatest  products  of  the  human  mind. 

The  composition  seems  like  a  sequel  to  the  Musical  Offering.  It  too 
is  a  set  of  contrapuntal  variations,  all  based  on  the  same  idea  and  all  in  the 
same  key.  There  is  even  a  melodic  resemblance  between  the  two  works, 
for  the  subject  of  the  Art  of  the  Fugue  appears  like  an  ingenious  con- 
densation of  the  'royal  theme.'  And  again,  in  most  of  the  variations,  Bach 
omits  any  indication  as  to  the  instruments  for  which  his  composition  is 
intended.  It  seems  likely  that  the  composer  meant  his  swan  song  to  be 
keyboard  music  primarily,  but  the  Art  of  the  Fugue  sounds  even  more 
impressive  when  played  by  a  string  quartet  or  varying  ensembles.1  How- 
ever, while  in  the  former  work  the  emphasis  was  on  canonic  elaboration, 

1  Cf.  the  editions  by  Roy  Harris  and  Wolfgang  Graser. 

294  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

here  all  the  possibilities  of  fugal  writing  are  explored.  Even  the  four 
canons  which  are  included  are  intended  to  illustrate  aspects  of  fugal 

Despite,  or  perhaps  because  of,  its  deceptively  plain  and  unobtrusive 
character,  the  short  theme  of  the  Art  of  the  Fugue  is  well  suited  to  serve 
as  a  foundation  for  the  monumental  edifice.  It  is  completely  regular  and 
symmetrical  in  its  construction;  played  in  inverted  form  its  main  intervals 
remain  practically  unchanged.  If  it  is  introduced  together  with  its  in- 
version, the  result  is  a  satisfactory  two-part  composition. 

While  Bach  presents  this  theme  in  ever-changing  rhythmic  and 
melodic  variation  (Ex.  67),  he  gradually  unfolds  a  complete  manual  of 

Xx-67  ^e  Theme ofihe„  Art  of  ihelugue "with tw-or-ariaiions 

fugal  composition.  Each  Contrapunctus  (as  he  calls  the  individual  varia- 
tions to  emphasize  their  learned  character)  gives  a  definite  solution  to  a 
basic  problem  of  fugal  writing.  The  composition  begins  with  a  group  of 
fugues  which  exhibit  the  theme  partly  in  its  original  shape  and  partly 
inverted.  Following  this  are  counter-fugues  and  stretto-fugues,1  presenting 
the  theme  not  only  in  direct  and  contrary  motion,  but  also  in  diminished 
and  augmented  form.  Bach  illustrates  the  possibilities  of  fugues  with  2 
and  3  themes,  while  the  mighty  quadruple  fugue  that  was  to  form  the 
climax  of  the  work  breaks  off  in  its  239th  measure.  Just  after  the  composer 
— like  a  medieval  artist  portraying  himself  in  a  corner  of  the  picture — had 
inserted  his  own  name  B-A-C-H2  into  the  work,  this  Contrapunctus 
abruptly  stops,  and  later  generations  were  faced  with  the  fascinating, 
albeit  dangerous,  task  of  guessing  at  the  master's  intentions.3  The  most 

1  A  counter-fugue  uses  the  inversion  of  the  subject  as  an  answer.  In  a  stretto  two  or 
more  voices  present  a  theme  in  such  close  succession  that  a  new  statement  begins  before 
the  previous  one  is  completed. 

2  The  German  name  for  the  note  b  is  H;  for  the  note  b  flat  it  is  B.  Therefore  the  notes 
b  flat-a-c-b  natural  signify  in  German  B-A-C-H. 

*  Earlier  historians  like  Moritz  Hauptmann,  Wilhelm  Rust  and  Philipp  Spitta  assumed 
that  the  incomplete  Contrapunctus,  which  did  not  contain  the  main  subject  of  the  whole 
cycle,  did  not  really  belong  to  the  work.  Gustav  Nottebohm  discovered,  however,  that  the 

J.    SEBASTIAN  S    ART    OF    THE    FUGUE  295 

stunning  (though  not  necessarily  the  most  complicated)  Contrapunctus 
in  the  whole  set  is  the  four-part  mirror  fugue.  Here  Bach  presents  all  the 
parts  as  rectus  in  their  original  form,  and  then  again  as  inversus  in  in- 
verted form.  To  make  the  mirror  reflection  doubly  realistic,  the  soprano 
of  the  rectus  becomes  the  bass  of  the  inversus,  the  contralto  changes 
into  a  tenor,  the  tenor  into  an  alto,  and  the  bass  into  a  soprano,  with  the 
result  that  the  whole  composition  now  seems  to  stand  on  its  head. 

Such  a  playful  and  experimental  character  is  not  to  be  found  in  a 
second  mirror  fugue  in  3  parts.  This  Contrapunctus  is  primarily  intended 
for  the  clavier,  but  it  can  only  be  performed  by  two  players,  as  the  parts 
are  too  widely  spaced  to  be  executed  by  ten  fingers.  Since  this  is  a  3 -part 
composition,  one  of  the  four  hands  of  the  performers  would  remain  idle, 
which  seems  a  waste  to  the  thrifty  composer.  He  therefore  inserts  a  filling 
fourth  part  which  is  completely  independent  of  the  highly  artistic  con- 
struction of  the  mirror  fugue.  Theoretically  this  foreign  body,  added 
merely  for  practical  reasons,  destroys  the  pure  construction  of  the  contra- 
puntal masterpiece,  but  it  produces  easily  playable  and  attractive  music, 
which  seems  to  Bach  of  paramount  importance. 

This  small  detail  offers  a  key  to  the  understanding  of  the  whole  work. 
Like  the  Inventions  and  the  Well-Tempered  Clavier,  the  Art  of  the 
Fugue  was  intended  as  a  didactic  composition  and  as  such  it  offers  the 
quintessence  of  contrapuntal  mastery.  However,  Bach  was  unable  to  write 
dry  instructive  precepts  only.  Under  his  hands  the  textbook  changed  into 
a  poem  imbued  with  the  mystery  of  pure  beauty.  The  solemn  pathos 
which  permeates  each  of  these  contrapuntal  variations  gives  this  farewell 
of  a  genius  the  transcendental  character  of  art  conceived  on  the  threshold 
of  eternity. 

3  subjects  of  the  fugue  could  be  combined  with  the  main  theme  of  the  Art  of  the  Fugue, 
thus  proving  that  Bach  meant  to  write  a  quadruple  fugue  for  his  work.  This  shrewd 
conclusion  inspired  Riemann,  Busoni  (in  his  'Fantasia  Contrapunctica')  and  Tovey  to 
attempt  completions  of  the  fugue.  But  nobody  who  has  ever  heard  a  performance  of  the 
work  in  which,  without  retard,  the  great  fugue  suddenly  breaks  off,  would  wish  to  exchange 
that  deeply  moving  experience  for  a  smooth  and  effective  ending,  however  scholarly 
the  execution. 


looking  back  on  the  activities  of  the  Bach  family  as  a  whole  during  the 
first  half  of  the  18th  century,  it  may  be  said  that  simultaneously  with  the 
rise  of  an  immortal  genius  out  of  their  midst,  the  Bach  musicians  succeeded 
in  greatly  extending  their  spheres  of  influence  beyond  the  original  Bach 
centres.  In  Erfurt  the  descendants  of  Johann  Bach  were  still  active  as 
organists  and  town  musicians  up  to  1740,  and  as  late  as  the  19th  century 
Bachs  of  other  lines  were  working  there.  In  Eisenach  Johann  Bernhard 
(18)  followed  the  great  Johann  Christoph  (13)  and  was  succeeded  by  a 
son,  Johann  Ernst  (34).  In  Arnstadt  another  Johann  Ernst  (25),  son  of 
Ambrosius'  twin  brother,  took  over  when  Sebastian  resigned  as  organist 
of  the  'New  Church,'  and  continued  in  this  capacity  up  to  his  death  in 
1739.  An  important  new  Bach  centre  was  established  through  Johann 
Ludwig  in  Meiningen.  Here,  after  his  death,  his  son  and  grandson  served 
in  the  double  capacity  of  court  painter  and  court  organist  far  beyond  the 
period  under  discussion,  in  fact  up  to  the  year  1846.  In  the  Franconian 
city  of  Schweinfurt  three  generations  of  Bachs  worked  either  as  cantor 
or  organist,  until  Johann  Elias  (39)  died  in  1755.  In  Ohrdruf  Sebastian's 
eldest  brother,  Johann  Christoph  (22),  was  succeeded  by  sons  and  grand- 
sons serving  up  to  18 14.  In  Jena  Johann  Nicolaus  (27)  held  the  post  of 
University  music  director  and  organist  for  no  less  than  58  years.  Miihl- 
hausen,  on  the  other  hand,  had  three  Bach  organists  in  succession,  among 
whom  Johann  Friedrich  (29),  a  son  of  the  great  Johann  Christoph,  main- 
tained the  old  tradition  of  stability  in  the  22  years  of  his  service,  while 
both  Sebastian  and  his  son,  Johann  Bernhard  (47),  stayed  there  for  very 
short  periods  only.  This  list  could  be  continued  further,  were  we  to 
include  the  Bach  cantors  or  organists  working  in  smaller  communities  of 
Thuringia.  The  locality  of  the  Bach  centres  proclaims  the  family's  deep- 
rooted  loyalty  to  that  part  of  Germany  chosen  by  their  forefathers.  Yet 
there  was  an  increasing  number  of  Bach  musicians  who  felt  compelled  to 
try  their  luck  in  new  territories.  The  second  son  and  namesake  of  the 
great  Johann  Christoph  (13),  after  sojourning  in  Hamburg  and  Rotter- 
dam, settled  down  as  clavier  teacher  in  England;  one  of  his  brothers 
travelled  as  organ  builder  to  the  North  and  was  never  heard  of  any  more. 
Johann  Jakob,  too,  (23),  Sebastian's  favourite  brother,  dreamed  of  adven- 


tures  in  foreign  lands.  He  entered  the  Swedish  army  as  a  bandsman  and 
his  desire  for  travel  found  fulfilment,  as  he  accompanied  the  army  as  far  as 
Constantinople.  Later  he  settled  down  as  court  musician  in  Stockholm, 
where  he  died  in  1722.  Sebastian  himself,  although  passionately  fond  of 
travel,  had  no  chance  of  undertaking  such  adventures.  His  creative  urge 
dominated  his  life,  and  he  went  to  those  places  where  he  hoped  to  find 
the  best  opportunities  for  congenial  work.  From  17 17  onwards  he  lived 
away  from  Thuringia,  and  his  sons,  as  will  subsequently  be  shown,  settled 
down  in  cities  the  family  had  never  lived  in  before. 

Sebastian  held  socially,  economically,  and  artistically,  a  position  of  his 
own  among  his  kinsmen.  Not  only  did  his  income  exceed  by  far  that  of 
any  other  member  of  the  family,  but  he  also  enjoyed  as  Electoral  and 
Royal  Polish  Court  composer  a  social  distinction  not  accorded  to  any 
other  Bach  of  his  time.  And  though  his  contemporaries  could  not  grasp 
the  importance  of  his  achievements  as  a  composer,  he  was  considered  the 
greatest  German  virtuoso  on  the  organ  and  the  most  eminent  expert  on 
this  instrument.  However,  in  spite  of  his  position  high  above  all  other 
Bach  musicians,  Sebastian  was  at  one  with  them  in  his  basic  attitude  to- 
wards his  profession.  Like  most  of  his  forefathers  and  relatives  he  con- 
sidered it  his  main  purpose  to  serve  God  in  music.  It  was  customary  for 
him  to  start  a  new  composition  with  the  inscription  /(esu)/(uva)  and  to 
end  it  with  the  letters  s(o\o)  D(eo)  G(loria).  The  Lutheran  faith  was  the 
spiritual  well-spring  of  his  art,  as  it  had  been  for  the  family  in  the  past 
hundred  years,  and  he  was  unaffected  by  the  new  trends  of  thought  which 
threatened  to  undermine  the  mighty  fortress  of  Protestantism.  Being 
spiritually  as  well  as  artistically  rooted  in  tradition  was  one  of  the  sources 
of  Sebastian's  strength.  On  the  other  hand  it  was  a  decisive  factor  in 
determining  the  place  he  occupied  in  relation  to  contemporary  music.  By 
the  time  Bach  had  reached  his  zenith  as  a  composer,  a  new  generation  had 
grown  up  which  proclaimed  a  different  artistic  creed.  They  wanted  music 
to  be  simple,  natural  and  graceful  and  they  criticized  Sebastian  Bach,  as 
their  spokesman,  Johann  Adolf  Scheibe,  put  it,  for  'his  turgid  and  con- 
fused style  .  .  .  darkening  beauty  by  an  excess  of  art.'  Here  was  a  deep 
cleavage  between  old  and  new  conceptions  which  Sebastian  did  not 
attempt  to  bridge.  Although  he  occasionally  showed  that  he  was  quite 
able  to  master  the  new  language,  he  chose,  with  advancing  years,  to  live 
in  splendid  isolation,  concerned  only  with  fulfilling  his  tremendous  self- 
imposed  tasks.  The  result  was  that  the  younger  generation  had  little,  if 
any,  interest  in  a  composer  whom  they  considered  hopelessly  old- 

298  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

The  era  of  J.  S.  Bach  marked  the  peak  of  creative  achievement  in  the 
family  history.  No  longer  was  the  output  confined  to  a  few  forms  of  com- 
position. In  the  first  half  of  the  1 8th  century  the  Bachs  cultivated  every 
type  of  music  known  in  their  time,  with  the  significant  exceptions  of  opera 
and  Catholic  church  music.  However,  their  widespread  activities  were  not 
accompanied  by  commensurate  recognition  and  fame.  These  were  to  come 
to  the  family  in  the  following  generation,  whose  contributions  encom- 
passed the  entire  realm  of  music. 





(1750-        ) 


in  the  1 8th  century  the  triumphant  rise  of  Natural  Science  brought  about 
a  complete  change  in  man's  general  outlook  and  conception  of  the  Uni- 
verse. The  former  uncritical  acceptance  of  doctrines  handed  down  by  the 
writers  of  antiquity  had  been  replaced  by  empirical  observation  leading  to 
the  revolutionary  discoveries  of  a  Galileo,  Newton,  and  Kepler.  Before 
long  scientific  methods  were  not  confined  to  the  domain  of  Science.  All 
manifestations  of  life  were  subordinated  to  Reason.  Superstition  and 
bigotry  were  relentlessly  exposed,  and  in  all  realms  of  life  antiquated  pre- 
judices were  thrown  overboard.  The  spirit  of  Enlightenment  also  gradually 
undermined  the  bastions  of  the  Christian  faith  and  even  the  Muses  were 
expected  to  follow  closely  the  dictates  of  Reason.  A  certain  trend  towards 
Naturalism  may  be  observed  in  the  Rococo  style  originating  in  the  second 
quarter  of  the  18th  century.  Shepherds  and  shepherdesses  became  the 
fashion  both  in  poetry  and  in  painting;  for  they  displayed  the  simplicity, 
charm  and  impudent  gaiety  which  people  of  the  Rococo  era  cherished.  In 
music  this  spirit  produced  the  style  galanu  The  intricacies  of  Baroque 
contrapuntal  art  were  forsworn  as  being  contrary  to  reason,  and  a  mono- 
die  style  was  the  goal.  'The  ear,'  as  Mattheson  claimed,  'often  derives 
more  satisfaction  from  a  single,  well-ordered  voice  developing  a  clear-cut 
melody  in  all  its  natural  freedom  than  from  24  parts  which,  in  order  to 
share  in  the  melody,  tear  it  to  such  an  extent  that  it  becomes  incomprehens- 
ible.' As  to  the  emotional  content,  the  aim  professed  by  the  song- 
composer  Valentin  Gorner  is  typical:  'to  write  engaging,  charming, 
jocular,  graceful,  enamoured,  and  gay  tunes.'  It  should  not  be  overlooked 
that  the  new  Rococo  style  in  music  grew  at  the  very  time  when  Baroque 
composition  reached  its  climax  in  Sebastian  Bach  and  Handel.  On  the 
other  hand  the  style  galant  did  not  remain  unchallenged  even  among  the 
younger  generation.  The  English  philosopher,  Edward  Young,  and  the 
German,  J.  Georg  Hamann,  proved  that  the  creations  of  genius  are  not 
based  on  reasoning  and  theoretical  speculation,  but  on  divine  inspiration. 
In  music  the  delicate  and  carefree  artistic  idiom  which  had  conquered 
Southern  and  Western  Europe  was  replaced,  particularly  in  Northern 
Germany,  by  a  more  solid  musical  language  in  which  emphasis  was  laid 
on  expressive  power  and  sensibility  (Empfindsamkeii).  'It  is  the  business 


302  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

of  music,'  declared  Daniel  Webb  in  his  'Observations  on  the  Correspon- 
dence between  Poetry  and  Music,'  'to  express  passions  in  the  way  they 
rise  out  of  the  soul.'  And  Philipp  Emanuel  Bach  exhorted  his  followers 
with  the  axiom:  'A  musician  cannot  move  others  unless  he  himself  is 

Even  before  the  Empfindsamkeit  reached  its  climax  in  the  'Storm  and 
Stress'  of  the  early  seventies,  to  which  most  great  spirits  of  the  time  made 
significant  contributions,  a  fusion  of  the  two  main  forms  of  Rococo  music 
was  envisioned.  The  style  galant  and  the  Empfindsamkeit  were  combined 
into  a  new  idiom  of  early  classicism  that  was  gay  and  light,  yet  tender  and 
deeply  felt;  an  idiom  which  represented  a  fine  balance  of  form  and  content, 
of  the  language  of  the  heart  and  that  of  the  intellect.  Attempts  towards 
reaching  a  union  of  these  apparently  incongruous  elements  were  made  as 
early  as  1760,  although  the  classical  style  did  not  reach  its  highest  perfec- 
tion until  much  later  in  the  symphonies  and  quartets  of  a  Haydn  and 

This  evolution  may  be  observed  in  the  most  diverse  artistic  and 
spiritual  manifestations  of  the  time.  There  is  a  close  affinity  between 
musical  classicism,  the  ideals  of  humanism  and  world  brotherhood,  and 
the  noble  simplicity  and  quiet  grandeur  manifested  in  contemporary 
literature  and  fine  arts.  The  work  of  the  Bachs  was  determined  by  these 
changing  trends,  and  at  the  same  time  it  contributed  greatly  towards 
shaping  them. 



J.  Sebastian  Bach=Maria  Barbara  Bach 


1 684- 1 720 

Wilhelm  Friedemann=Dorothea  Elisabeth  Georgi 



Wilhelm  Adolf        Gotthilf  Wilhelm  Friederica  Sophia  ==  Johann  Schmidt 

1752-52  1754-56  1757-1801  1761-? 

Sophia  Dorothea        Sophie  Friederika 
1793-?  I797-? 

the  adolescence  of  Friedemann1  was  described  in  the  story  of  Sebastian's 
life.  We  left  the  consideration  of  the  career  of  this  eldest  son  of  the  master 
when,  in  1733,  he  started  independently  in  Dresden.  The  fond  hopes  that 
accompanied  him  seemed  fully  justified.  At  the  age  of  23  Friedemann  was 
an  outstanding  and  inspired  organ  virtuoso  whose  improvisations 
approached  those  of  his  father  in  grandeur  and  imaginative  power,  while 
in  the  field  of  composition  he  also  showed  definite  promise.  The  position 
he  held  at  Dresden's  Sophienkirche  was  not  an  important  one,  but  it  had 
the  advantage  of  taking  up  but  little  of  the  organist's  time.  He  was 
required  to  play  every  Monday  at  8  a.m.,  and  every  Sunday  and  feast-day 
for  a  morning  and  an  afternoon  service;  this  gave  Friedemann  an  oppor- 
tunity for  continuing  his  studies.  Although  music  naturally  occupied  the 
centre  of  his  activities,  he  still  continued  the  mathematical  work  which 
had  captivated  his  mind  while  he  attended  Leipzig  University.  In  this 
respect  Friedemann  was  the  true  son  of  his  father,  on  whom  the  world  of 
numbers  and  their  symbolic  use  in  music  exercised  a  real  fascination. 
Moreover,  Friedemann  did  a  great  deal  of  teaching,  and  one  of  his  pupils 
brought  him  much  satisfaction  and  prestige.  This  was  young  Johann 
Theophilus  Goldberg,  whose  name  has  survived  in  the  history  of  music 
as  the  pianist  who  played  Sebastian  Bach's  'Aria  with  30  Variations'  at 
night  to  his  protector,  Count  Keyserlingk,  in  order  to  help  the  Count  for- 
get the  pains  and  insomnia  caused  by  a  serious  illness.  At  times  Goldberg 

1  Cf.  Martin  Falck,  'Wilhelm  Friedemann  Bach,'  Leipzig,  19 13. 


304  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

was  taken  by  the  Count  to  Leipzig,  to  get  instruction  on  certain  problems 
from  Sebastian  Bach,  but  it  was  mainly  Friedemann  who  taught  the 
brilliant  pianist;  and  though  this  virtuoso  naturally  held  a  unique  position 
among  the  organist's  pupils,  it  may  be  assumed  that  Friedemann  at  that 
time  did  not  mind  'informing  the  youth'  (as  the  18th  century  described 
work  of  this  kind)  and  was  a  capable  teacher. 

Social  and  artistic  contacts  were  easily  established.  Friedemann  had 
occasionally  visited  Dresden  with  his  father  and  had  met  many  musicians 
there.  He  knew  the  great  Adolf  Hasse,  opera  director  at  Dresden,  and 
Hasse's  wife,  the  renowned  prima  donna,  Faustina  Bordoni,  and  he  saw 
much  of  the  eminent  flautist,  P.  G.  BufTardin,  who  years  ago  had  taught 
Sebastian's  elder  brother,  Johann  Jakob  (cf.  p.  297),  when  that  adventure- 
loving  musician  came  to  Constantinople  as  oboist  in  the  Swedish  army. 
Friedemann  also  got  on  well  with  other  court  musicians  and  invited  them 
to  visit  his  father  in  Leipzig  for  communal  music-making,  an  invitation 
which  meant  much  to  any  good  musician.  After  Sebastian  was  appointed 
in  1736  Royal  Polish  and  Electoral  Saxon  Court  composer  (an  honour  for 
which  the  master  expressed  his  gratitude  by  giving  a  most  magnificent 
recital  on  the  new  Silbermann  organ  of  Dresden's  Frauenkirche),  his  son 
had  no  difficulty  in  making  contacts  with  the  music-loving  aristocrats  at 
the  court.  Thus  in  many  ways  the  father  extended  from  a  distance  a 
helping  hand  to  his  beloved  'Friede,'  smoothing  out  difficulties  which  he 
himself,  in  his  youth,  had  had  to  overcome  unaided. 

And  yet,  in  spite  of  such  manifest  advantages,  Dresden  presented 
problems,  and  even  dangers,  to  an  unstable,  highly  impressionable  young 
artist.  How  utterly  different  was  life  at  the  Saxon  capital  from  that  which 
Friedemann  had  experienced  at  the  Thomas  Cantor's  home!  There  the 
strictest  economy  prevailed;  every  penny  had  to  be  accounted  for  and,  for 
the  sake  of  a  few  outstanding  thalers,  his  father  had  spent  hours  and  hours 
drafting  lengthy  petitions  and  complaints  to  his  monarch.  The  Bachs' 
home  contained  just  what  was  necessary  for  living;  luxury  in  furniture, 
food  or  clothes  would  have  been  considered  unseemly  for  a  man  in  Sebas- 
tian's position.  Those  standards  of  economy,  and  even  austerity,  which 
were  considered  a  matter  of  course  by  the  Bach  children,  seemed  strangely 
out  of  place  in  Dresden.  At  the  court,  operas,  ballets,  redoutes,  sleigh- 
rides,  and  the  most  ingenious  illuminations  followed  each  other  in  a 
breath-taking  succession,  all  presented  with  the  most  expensive  settings 
and  costumes.  The  monarch  did  not  mind  spending  a  sum  of  40,000 
thalers  on  one  carnival  season  alone,  besides  a  huge  amount  of  money 
on  the  enormous  entertainment  programme  for  the  rest  of  the  year.  It  was 

W.    FRIEDEMANN    IN    DRESDEN    (1733-1746)  305 

a  glittering  fairyland  into  which  Friedemann  had  moved,  a  land  where  a 
newly  appointed  ambassador  was  received  by  30  state  coaches,  each  drawn 
by  6  magnificent  horses,  and  led  over  a  bridge  lit  by  some  3000  lamps. 
The  musicians  at  the  Dresden  court  lived  in  an  atmosphere  vastly  different 
from  that  in  Leipzig  (a  fact  that  Sebastian  felt  impelled  to  mention  in  a 
petition  to  his  Leipzig  superiors).  Hasse  drew  for  his  'pretty  little  tunes,' 
as  Sebastian  smilingly  described  them  to  his  son,  a  salary  quite  beyond 
that  of  the  Leipzig  director  musices.  He  and  Faustina  each  received 
6000  thalers  a  year,  which  was  about  eight  times  Sebastian's  income,  and 
were  given  besides  a  travel  allowance  of  500  thalers  and  the  chance  to 
earn  a  great  deal  through  guest  appearances. 

All  this  was  strangely  disturbing  and  likely  to  upset  a  young  man's  set 
of  values.  Maybe  Friedemann  would  have  been  able  to  throw  over  the 
family  standard  and  to  adopt  wholeheartedly  the  outlook  on  life  prevailing 
at  the  Dresden  court;  but  this  was  impossible,  for  he  did  not  belong  to  the 
luxurious,  dazzling  court  world,  and  could  only  watch  it  with  a  fascina- 
tion tinged  with  envy.  A  Protestant  organist  was  of  very  little  significance 
indeed  in  Dresden  at  that  time.  The  Elector,  following  the  example  of  his 
father,  Augustus  'the  Strong,'  who  had  given  up  Protestantism  in  order 
to  become  King  of  Poland,  was  a  devout  Catholic;  his  wife  was  an 
Austrian  princess  with  the  traditional  interest  of  the  Hapsburgs  in  the 
Catholic  Church,  and  during  their  reign  Protestantism  lost  more  and  more 
ground  in  Dresden.  It  is  significant  that  the  Elector  had  a  magnificent  new 
Catholic  church  built;  while  the  former  Protestant  court  church  in  the 
castle  was  remodelled  into  living  quarters  for  employees,  and  the  Protes- 
tant court  servants  were  ordered  henceforth  to  worship  at  the  Sophien- 
kirche.  Great  indignation  prevailed  among  the  non-Catholics,  and  Friede- 
mann especially  had  good  reasons  for  being  vexed.  Not  only  was  his  work 
hampered  by  the  alterations  made  in  his  church,  into  which  equipment 
from  the  former  court  church  was  fitted,  but  he  had  to  play  on  Sundays 
for  two  morning  services  (one  extra  for  the  court  employees,  who  were 
unwilling  to  mix  with  the  regular  congregation),  without  receiving  any 
additional  remuneration. 

Even  in  Dresden  there  were,  it  is  true,  better  positions  to  be  found  for 
a  Protestant  musician.  Working  on  the  new  organ  of  the  Frauenkirche,  for 
instance,  carried  greater  distinction,  and  Friedemann  must  have  had  his 
eye  on  the  vacancy  which  occurred  there  in  1742.  It  was  filled,  however, 
by  another  pupil  of  Sebastian's,  Gottfried  August  Homilius,  who  gave 
such  satisfaction  that  he  was  later  appointed  Kreu^kantor  and  musical 
director  of  Dresden's  three  main  Protestant  churches.  Changing  from  one 

306  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

organ  to  another  within  a  town  was  by  nomeans  unusual — for  example, 
Sebastian's  rival  at  Leipzig,  Johann  Gottlieb  Gorner,  had  done  so  (cf. 
p.  174) — and  the  fact  that  Homilius  was  preferred  to  Friedemann  Bach 
seems  to  point  to  young  Bach's  inability  to  establish  cordial  relations  with 
his  superiors.  Nor  did  Friedemann  make  much  headway  as  a  composer  of 
secular  music.  In  Dresden  the  Italian  taste  reigned  supreme,  and  the 
organist's  language,  although  it  adopted  the  Italian  idiom  in  various 
details,  seemed  too  complicated  and  too  teutonic  to  please  the  capital's 
music  lovers. 

Gradually  it  became  apparent  that  Friedemann  would  always  remain 
an  outsider  in  the  glittering  Saxon  town,  and  that  real  success  was  not 
attainable  there.  He  began  to  look  for  a  chance  to  leave  Dresden  and  find 
a  position  elsewhere  with  greater  responsibilities  and  wider  scope.  When 
he  was  36,  a  fine  opportunity  materialized,  and  it  is  significant  that  it  took 
him  to  a  place  where  his  father  was  well  known.  It  will  be  remembered 
that  while  working  in  Weimar,  Sebastian,  tempted  by  the  outstanding 
merits  of  the  organ  built  at  that  time  in  Halle's  Liebfrauenkirche,  had 
applied  for  the  vacant  organist's  post  and  given  his  trial  performance  to 
everybody's  delight.  The  negotiations  had  led  to  no  result,  much  to  the 
disappointment  of  tjie  Halle  electors,  as  Sebastian  found  the  conditions 
offered  less  desirable  than  those  granted  him  at  Weimar.  Eventually  the 
master  succeeded  in  conciliating  the  Halle  authorities,  and  when  work  on 
the  organ  was  finished,  he  was  invited  to  test  the  instrument  (cf.  p.  147). 
Since  then  30  years  had  passed,  during  which  Gottfried  KirchhorT  had 
served  as  organist  at  the  Liebfrauenkirche.  When  on  his  death  in  January 
1746  the  position  became  vacant,  the  Bach  family  was  naturally  interested 
in  securing  this  important  appointment  for  one  of  its  members.  Sebastian 
probably  got  into  touch  with  his  former  correspondent,  August  Becker, 
who  was  still  a  member  of  the  church  board.  Friedemann  himself  must 
have  been  able  to  present  recommendations  of  the  highest  order,  for 
against  all  precedent  he  was  given  the  position  without  passing  the 
customary  trial  performance.  There  is  some  possibility  that  the  decisive 
word  in  his  favour  was  uttered  by  Friedrich  II  ('the  Great')  of  Prussia. 
The  King  had  just  won  a  victory  over  Saxony  in  the  'second  Silesian  war' 
(1744-45)  and  in  December  1745  occupied  Dresden.  During  the  nine  days 
of  his  stay,  this  ardent  friend  of  the  muses  enjoyed  with  the  greatest  zest 
all  that  the  Dresden  musicians  had  to  offer;  indeed,  on  the  very  day  of  his 
entry  into  the  capital,  he  attended  the  premiere  of  a  Hasse  opera.  As 
Philipp  Emanuel  Bach  had  for  several  years  been  in  the  King's  service,  it 
seems  likely  that  Friedrich,  interested  in  his  accompanist's  elder  brother, 

W.    FRIEDEMANN    IN    HALLE   (1746-I770)  307 

heard  him  play  while  in  Dresden.  The  city  of  Halle  belonged  to  the  state 
of  Brandenburg  which  was  united  with  Prussia,  and  although  the  appoint- 
ment of  an  organist  was  a  purely  municipal  matter,  Friedrich  could  easily 
have  hinted  that  the  choice  of  Friedemann  Bach  would  be  agreeable  to 
him.  Anyway,  on  April  16, 1746,  the  contract  was  signed — it  was  identical 
with  that  sent  to  Sebastian  in  1714 — and  on  Whitsunday  Friedemann 
assumed  his  new  duties.  It  was  a  great  step  forward  in  every  respect.  The 
position  formerly  held  by  such  eminent  musicians  as  Samuel  Scheidt  and 
Friedrich  Wilhelm  Zachau,  the  teacher  of  Handel,  carried  much  distinc- 
tion. Friedemann's  basic  salary  was  more  than  twice  his  honorarium  at 
Dresden,1  and  in  addition  he  could  hope  for  a  larger  income  from  Acciden- 
tien.  The  position  gave  him  much  greater  responsibilities;  for  he  served  not 
only  as  organist,  but  as  conductor  of  the  concerted  music  played  on  high 
feast-days  and  every  third  Sunday  at  the  Liebfrauenkirchej and.*as  com- 
poser of  many  of  the  works  to  be  performed.  He  held  the  title  of  Director 
Musices,  as  his  father  did  at  Leipzig,  having  at  his  disposal  a  large  choir 
and  a  sizeable  group  of  instrumentalists  recruited  from  the  town  musicians 
and  the  Collegium  Musicum. 

If  Friedemann,  on  leaving  Dresden,  had  wanted  a  complete  change  of 
atmosphere,  he  certainly  got  it  in  Halle.  Here  was  no  glamorous  court  life, 
no  display  of  luxury,  no  opera,  and  only  isolated  theatrical  performances 
when  King  Friedrich  overrode  the  objections  of  certain  citizens.  Halle 
had  for  the  past  fifty  years  been  the  centre  of  pietism,  which,  with  its 
insistence  on  an  ascetic  life  preparing  for  the  hereafter,  frowned  on  any- 
thing savouring  of  sensuous  pleasure.  Women  were  expected  to  be  clad 
with  nun-like  simplicity;  dancing  and  smoking  were  considered  frivoli- 
ties, and  music  was  suffered  only  as  a  means  of  'inspiring  and  refreshing 
the  congregation  in  worship'  (as  it  reads  in  Friedemann's  contract).  When 
the  new  Director  Musices  came  to  Halle,  pietism  had  lost  much  of  its 
original  fervour  and  appeal.  The  leadership  had  passed  from  the  great 
humanitarian,  August  Hermann  Francke,  unforgettable  in  Halle  as  the 
creator  of  large-scale  charitable  and  educational  institutions,  which  still 
exist  to-day,2  to  his   son,  Gotthilf  August,  a  domineering,   narrow- 

1  The  basic  salary  of  181  th.  12  gr.  had  not  seemed  adequate  to  his  father  in  1714,  but 
Sebastian  had  to  provide  for  wife  and  children  at  that  time,  while  Friedemann  was  still 
a  bachelor. 

2  Francke  founded  a  school  for  poor  children,  an  orphanage,  a  boarding  school,  and 
a  Latin  day  school  for  paying  students;  later  he  added  a  mission  institute  for  the  East  Indies. 
All  these  institutes,  where  girls  also  were  taught,  were  united  in  a  kind  of  school  town  with 
its  own  farm,  clinic,  book  store,  and  dispensary.  The  production  of  certain  medicines 
provided  an  important  income  for  the  various  charitable  institutions. 

308  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

minded  theologian  whose  outlook  was  typical  of  the  gradual  petrification 
taking  place  in  the  pietistic  doctrines.  It  was  bad  luck  for  Friedemann  that 
the  younger  Francke  was  archidiaconus  of  his  church,1  a  superior  lacking 
a  real  understanding  of  music.  He  and  his  colleagues  were  certainly  not 
pleasant  to  work  with.  At  Halle  no  musician  could  dare  to  behave  with 
anything  but  exemplary  propriety.  Nothing  was  overlooked  or  ever  for- 
gotten by  the  church  authorities.  Even  minor  breaches  of  regulations 
were  sharply  reprimanded  and  a  real  offence  brought  instant  dismissal.2 

After  living  for  13  years  in  Dresden,  it  cannot  have  been  easy  for 
Friedemann  to  adapt  himself  to  such  diametrically  opposed  conditions.  It 
is  true  that  he  had  always  been  an  outsider  in  the  Saxon  capital;  but  even 
as  such  he  had  absorbed  enough  of  its  easy-going,  sensuous  atmosphere 
to  deviate  from  some  of  the  strict  standards  on  which  he  had  been  brought 
up.  Now  he  was  transplanted  to  a  circle  where  the  pleasures  of  life  were 
regarded  with  suspicion,  where  a  sober,  austere  mode  of  living  was  a 
matter  of  course.  Had  young  Friedemann  gone  straight  from  Leipzig  to 
Halle,  he  might  have  become  a  sincere  pietist;  but  the  man  of  36,  familiar 
with  an  entirely  different  philosophy  of  life,  found  such  reorientation 
difficult  indeed.  Sometimes  he  may  have  come  perilously  near  to  sharing 
the  opinion  of  his  sovereign,  Friedrich  'the  Great,'  who  derided  the  Halle 
pietists  as  'Protestant  Jesuits  and  Pharisees.'  Yet,  a  son  of  Sebastian  Bach, 
so  close  to  his  father,  must  have  possessed  a  great  capacity  for  a  genuine 
religious  life,  and  Friedemann  might  eventually  have  achieved  a  real 
acceptance  of  the  pietistic  doctrine,  had  there  not  been  a  disturbing 
influence  from  another  quarter. 

On  its  foundation  in  1693  the  University  of  Halle,  one  of  the  most 
distinguished  Protestant  institutions  of  learning  in  Germany,  mainly 
served  the  cause  of  pietism.  However,  its  harmonious  atmosphere  was 
rudely  shaken  when  the  philosopher  and  mathematician,  Christian  Wolff, 
the  foremost  German  exponent  of  the  new  trend  of  Aufklarung  (enlighten- 
ment), started  his  lectures  in  1707.  In  his  system  there  was  no  place  for  the 
religious  impulses  and  mystical  experiences  so  dear  to  pietists,  nor  did  he 
see  in  this  world  a  vale  of  tears.  Wolff  based  his  philosophy  on  the  sound 
working  of  human  reason,  and  following  his  great  model,  Leibniz  (cf. 
p.  85),  he  proved  that  the  world  we  lived  in  was  the  best  of  all  possible 
worlds.  His  system,  with  its  emphasis  on  empirical  methods  of  research, 
had  dangerous  implications  for  pietism,  and  indeed  for  all  denominations, 
and  was  likely  ultimately  to  lead  to  scepticism  and  atheism  (though  Wolff 

1  He  died  in  1769,  one  year  before  Friedemann  left  Halle. 

2  This  happened  to  Friedemann's  colleague,  Cantor  Mittag. 

W.    FRIEDEMANN    IN    HALLE    (1746-1770)  309 

himself  was  a  very  religious  man).  He  was  therefore  viciously  attacked  by 
the  Church,  and  when  he  dared  even  to  prove  in  a  lecture  on  Confucius 
that  morals  were  independent  of  theology,  his  enemies  succeeded  in  en- 
forcing in  1723  his  expulsion  from  Halle.  But  they  could  not  stop  the 
triumphant  progress  of  his  doctrine,  which  was  just  what  the  young  minds 
needed,  and  when  Friedrich  'the  Great'  ascended  the  throne  in  1740,  one 
of  his  first  acts  was~to  recall^ Wolff  to  Halle.  By  the  time  Friedemann  settled 
down  in  his  new  appointment,  Wolff  had  gained  an  unassailable  position, 
and  his  pupils  were  successfully  applying  the  new  rationalistic  method  in 
all  fields  of  knowledge.  Of  particular  importance  for  Halle  was  Johann 
Salomo  Semler,  who  started  the  historical-critical  interpretation  of  Biblical 

Naturally  the  new  Director  Musices  (after  being  introduced  into  uni- 
versity circles  by  his  friend,  the  publisher,  J.  J.  Gebauer),  could  not  over- 
look the  two  controversial  trends  which  dominated  Halle's  intellectual  and 
religious  life.  Tossed  between  the  Scylla  of  rationalism  and  the  Charybdis 
of  pietism,  Friedemann  had  not  the  strength  to  preserve  the  profound 
Christian  faith  in  which  he  had  been  brought  up.  This  is  clearly  revealed 
in  his  compositions  written  for  the  church,  which  are  not  on  the  same  level 
as  his  instrumental  music  and  lack  real  religious  fervour.  It  was  Friede- 
mann's  tragic  fate  that  in  Halle  once  again  he  did  not  become  part  of  a 
leading  faction,  and  yet,  on  the  other  hand,  he  was  not  strong  enough  to 
enjoy  such  splendid  isolation.  This  may  have  been  one  of  the  reasons  for 
his  unhappiness  there  and  his  eventual  breakdown. 

The  first  years  were  quite  pleasant,  though;  while  Sebastian  was  alive, 
his  very  existence  gave  the  son  support.  In  the  spring  of  1747  the  two 
travelled  together  to  Berlin  and  Potsdam  to  pay  a  visit  to  the  King;  a 
great  experience  of  which  Friedemann  loved  to  relate  in  later  years.  In 
1750  he  made  the  same  trip  again,  but  under  what  sad  conditions!  Sebas- 
tian had  died,  and  Friedemann,  after  administering  his  father's  affairs  in 
Leipzig,  took  his  half-brother,  Johann  Christian,  to  Emanuel,  who  had 
offered  Christian  a  home.  Shaken  by  the  irreparable  loss,  Friedemann 
stayed  in  Berlin  much  longer  than  he  had  intended,  and  on  his  return  to 
Halle  he  had  to  face  public  reprimand  by  the  authorities.  This  was  not  his 
first  trouble  with  the  Board;  for  a  few  months  earlier  he  had  been 
threatened  with  dismissal  for  having,  contrary  to  regulation,  lent  the 
church's  drums  to  the  Collegium  Musicum.  But  Friedemann  somehow 
managed  to  calm  his  superiors,  and  for  several  years  no  complaints  are 

Doubly  aware  of  his  solitude  now  that  visits  to  his  father  were  no 


longer  possible,  Friedemann  decided,  at  the  age  of  41,  to  marry  the 
daughter  of  an  excise  official  with  whom  he  had  resided  since  his  arrival 
in  Halle.  The  choice  was  a  sensible  one  as  the  bride  had  some  means  of  her 
own,  and  it  looked  as  though  the  artist  were  now  embarking  on  a  life 
along  traditional  lines.  Three  children  were  born,  for  whom  the  father 
provided  high-ranking  godparents,  such  as  the  Dresden  court-marshal, 
and  the  Princes  of  Anhalt-Cothen.  However,  only  one  daughter,  Friede- 
rica  Sophia,  born  1757,  survived  infancy,  and  in  the  long  run  marriage 
did  not  cure  Friedemann  of  his  restlessness  and  dissatisfaction.  He  tried 
several  times  to  get  a  position  elsewhere;  in  1753  he  applied  for  an 
organist's  post  at  Zittau;  in  1758  for  similar  work  at  Frankfurt,  and  his 
repeated  absences,  for  which  the  Halle  authorities  reproached  their  music 
director,  were  probably  connected  with  other  unsuccessful  attempts  in 
this  direction.  Ten  years  after  his  arrival  in  Halle,  the  city  became  a  most 
unpleasant  place  to  live  in.  War  broke  out  between  Prussia,  assisted  by 
England  and  a  few  small  North  German  states  on  the  one  side,  and  Austria 
Russia,  France,  Saxony  and  various  other  German  states  on  the  other;  a 
struggle  that  was  carried  on  through  seven  years.  From  the  outset  it  was 
realized  that  Halle  could  not  be  defended,  and  so  it  was  declared  an  open 
city.  Again  and  again  one  of  the  various  enemy  armies  quartered  itself  in 
the  unfortunate  town,  using  up  all  its  resources  and  with  threats  of 
complete  devastation  through  fire  enforcing  the  payments  of  outrageous 
ransoms.  All  the  citizens  had  to  contribute  to  these  payments,  but  even 
so  it  seems  amazing  how  the  population  of  13,000  could  manage  to  satisfy 
the  various  occupying  troops,  which  in  the  year  1760,  for  instance,  in- 
sisted on  receiving  301,747  dialers  and  extensive  deliveries  in  kind.  This 
state  of  things  went  on  for  years  with  hardly  any  intermission.  Work  of 
every  kind  almost  came  to  a  standstill,  the  cattle  succumbed  to  plagues, 
there  was  a  scarcity  of  every  foodstuff,  and  the  inhabitants'  nerves  were 
strained  to  breaking  point.  Friedemann  suffered  like  the  rest,  and  although 
he  was  not  a  citizen  he  was  taxed  for  contributions  to  the  enemy  because 
of  the  property  belonging  to  his  wife.  This  he  felt  to  be  unfair  and  he 
decided  to  appeal  to  the  Church  Board.  It  cannot  be  said  that  he  chose  a 
propitious  moment  for  this  step.  On  October  20,  1761,  only  a  few  days 
after  the  purely  military  danger  seemed  to  be  overcome  for  the  moment 
through  the  arrival  of  Prussian  troops  in  the  vicinity,  he  wrote  his  peti- 
tion. Oblivious  to  the  fact  that  the  war  was  not  yet  over,  that  the  city  had 
in  the  last,  worst  year,  lost  literally  all  its  resources,  and  that  the  church 
treasury  was  depleted,  he  not  only  asked  for  exemption  from  tax,  claiming 
it  had  been  granted  to  other  church  servants,  but  continued  with  this 

W.    FRIEDEMANN    IN    HALLE    (1746-I770)  3II 

request:  'I  venture  at  the  same  time  submissively  to  ask  your  Honours  for 
an  increase  in  my  salary.  When  I  started  work,  the  late  chairman,  Mr. 
Schafer,  assured  me  in  the  name  of  A  Most  Noble  Church  Council  that  he 
would  see  to  such  increase,  should  the  conditions  of  the  church  improve. 
This  assurance  given  me  15  years  ago,  and  the  present  very  hard  times, 
with  prices  rising  daily,  induce  me  to  appeal  now  to  my  Most  Noble  and 
Honoured  patrons.'  It  was  certainly  true  that  Friedemann  suffered  from 
the  catastrophic  economic  conditions  prevailing  in  Halle,  but  it  seems 
hardly  credible  that  with  the  events  of  the  past  years  in  mind  he  could 
have  ventured  to  request  the  increase  which  had  been  promised  to  him  in 
the  event  of  improved  conditions.  Indeed  the  letter  reveals  a  degree  of  self- 
absorption  and  an  inability  to  foresee  the  other  person's  reaction  which 
clearly  explains  why  the  various  attempts  to  secure  a  position,  which 
Friedemann  undertook  after  his  father's  death  (and  therefore  without  his 
support  and  advice),  turned  out  to  be  failures.  No  wonder  this  letter  did 
not  produce  the  hoped-for  result.  The  church  elders,  who  had  gone 
through  such  harassing  times  and  as  yet  did  not  know  how  to  save  the 
town  from  bankruptcy,  were  outraged  and  did  not  hide  their  feelings. 
They  curtly  answered  that  the  allotment  to  him  of  a  share  in  the  payments 
to  the  enemy  was  justified,  as  he  was  enjoying  the  protection  resulting 
from  such  payments,  and  incidentally  was  taxed  less  than  the  meanest 
craftsman.  As  to  the  salary-increase,  they  did  not  see  any  reason  whatso- 
ever for  it  in  view  of  'his  frequently  improper  behaviour  and  his  lack  of 
submission  to  the  Church  Board  as,  despite  the  reprimand  given  him  in 
pleno  Collegii,  he  had  absented  himself  repeatedly  without  special  per- 
mission.' Finally  he  was  advised  henceforth  to  show  greater  subordination 
so  as  not  to  force  the  Board  to  take  further  steps.  It  should  be  emphasized 
that  Friedemann's  'improper  behaviour'  could  certainly  not  have  been 
anything  of  the  kind  implied  by  this  expression  in  our  time.  Loose  morals 
or  dissolute  habits  would  not  have  been  tolerated  by  the  Council  for  even 
a  short  period,  and  in  1761  Friedemann  had  been  in  office  for  15  years! 
The  Council  had  indeed  to  exert  its  memory  to  prove  its  point,  for  the 
reprimand  referred  to  had  been  delivered  eleven  years  before,  when 
Friedemann  had  overstayed  his  leave  after  the  death  of  his  father! 

The  effect  of  this  most  outspoken  letter  on  the  organist,  who  felt  he 
had  given  excellent  service  to  Halle,  can  well  be  imagined.  It  must  have 
been  a  true  relief  to  him  when  one  year  later  he  got  a  most  tempting  offer. 
He  was  invited  to  succeed  Christoph  Graupner,  at  one  time  Sebastian's 
rival  for  the  Thomas  Cantorate  (cf.  p.  166),  as  conductor  to  the  court  of 
Darmstadt.  The  position  was  a  highly  important  one  carrying  a  salary  of 

312  THE    BACH    FAMILY 

900  fl.  as  well  as  contributions  in  kind;  indeed,  it  was  so  good  that 
Graupner  had  seen  fit  to  decline  the  position  at  Leipzig  for  its  sake.  For 
Friedemann  it  must  have  seemed  like  the  fulfilment  of  his  greatest  wishes; 
at  Darmstadt  he  could  start  a  new  life,  devote  himself  to  instrumental 
music,  and  at  last  reap  the  rewards  that  he  felt  to  be  his  due.  Friedemann 
accepted  and  was  urged  to  get  started  on  the  removal  of  his  belongings, 
for  which  100  fl.  were  offered  to  him.  But  the  musician,  52  years  old,  did 
not  like  to  be  rushed.  In  the  ensuing  correspondence  he  insisted  on 
receiving  the  official  decree  first,  and  with  characteristic  stubbornness  he 
did  not  refrain  from  this  request  even  when  Darmstadt  made  it  clear  that 
the  document  would  be  handed  to  him  on  his  arrival.  What  happened 
after  that  is  rather  obscure,  as  Friedemann's  own  letters  have  not  been 
preserved;  but  it  may  be  surmised  that  his  hesitant  manner  of  carrying  on 
the  negotiations  and  his  lack  of  pliability  made  a  bad  impression.  Anyway, 
he  eventually  got  the  coveted  title,  but  not  the  position.  The  darkness 
veiling  this  chapter  of  Friedemann's  history,  which  might  have  become 
a  turning-point  in  his  career,  also  shrouds  the  next  fatal  step  he  took.  On 
May  12,  1764,  he  resigned  his  position  at  Halle,  stopping  work  instantly, 
and  not  even  appearing  for  the  checking  of  the  instruments  entrusted  to 
his  care.  No  dispute  has  been  recorded  which  might  have  provoked  so 
sudden  a  decision;  moreover  Friedemann  had  no  other  position  in 
prospect  on  which  to  fall  back,  though  he  may  have  hoped  for  a  chance 
at  Fulda.  Apparently  the  resentment  and  disappointment  engendered  in 
Friedemann's  mind  for  18  years  just  had  to  find  an  outlet,  and  the  artist 
felt  irresistibly  drawn  to  washing  his  hands  of  his  ungracious  and  narrow- 
minded  superiors,  and  to  showing  them  that  he  did  not  depend  on  their 
favour.  The  satisfaction  he  derived  from  this  act  of  defiance  must  have 
been  great  indeed,  but  so  was  the  price  he  and  his  dependants  had  to  pay 
for  it. 

Through  six  more  years  he  stayed  on  in  Halle,  getting  some  help  from 
his  friend,  the  publisher  Gebauer,  and  working  as  a  music  teacher.  Some 
of  his  pupils  in  Halle  were  highly  successful.  Among  them  his  kinsman, 
Johann  Christian  Bach  (1743- 18 14),  known  as  the  'Clavier-Bach,'  should 
be  mentioned.  He  was  the  son  of  Michael  Bach,  Cantor  of  St.  Ulrich  in 
Halle,  and  probably  a  nephew  of  the  Meiningen  court  conductor,  Johann 
Ludwig  Bach.  The  relative  received  various  gifts  of  manuscripts  from  his 
teacher,  among  them  Sebastian's  Clavierbiichlein  written  for  young  Friede- 
mann. Another  pupil  was  Friedrich  Wilhelm  Rust,  whose  grandson, 
Wilhelm  Rust,  was  to  become  one  of  the  foremost  editors  of  the  Bach- 
Gesellschafty  and  to  the  elder  Rust  the  generous  teacher  gave  the  autograph 

w.  friedemann's  last  years  (1770-1784)  313 

of  Sebastian's  French  Suites.  Johann  Samuel  Petri  also  proudly  claims  in 
his  Anleitung  %ur  praktischen  Musih  that  he  enjoyed  'the  Halle  Bach's 
friendship  and  instruction.' 

In  1767  Friedemann  tried  to  win  the  favour  of  Maria  Antonia,  Electress 
of  Saxony,  by  dedicating  to  her  his  Clavier  Concerto  in  e.  In  the  accom- 
panying letter  he  reminded  the  Princess  that  he  had  heard  her  singing  in 
Dresden  when  he  had  brought  his  pupil,  Goldberg,  to  perform  for  her.1 
We  hope  that  the  Electress  rewarded  him — a  fact  that  cannot  be  checked, 
as  the  Princess'  private  accounts  of  this  period  have  not  been  preserved — 
but  nothing  else  resulted  from  this  attempt,  as  Maria  Antonia,  a  fertile 
composer  herself,  cared  only  for  the  Italian  style  in  music. 

In  August  1770  Friedemann  decided  to  leave  Halle  for  good,  and  his 
wife's  property  was  put  up  for  auction.  At  the  age  of  60  he  started  a 
wandering  life,  following  the  chance  of  an  appointment  here  or  there,  but 
never  achieving  tangible  results.  Wherever  he  appeared  people  were 
fascinated  by  his  organ  playing,  and  received  him  at  first  with  enthusiasm 
and  reverence;  yet  they  did  not  desire  to  engage  him.  He  was  too  old,  too 
eccentric  (for  how  else  could  one  regard  a  man  who  had  thrown  away  a 
perfectly  satisfactory  position  without  having  secured  another?),  and  too 
famous  to  fit  into  a  regular  routine  job  which  a  modest  young  man  would 
fill  so  much  more  satisfactorily.  Thus  Friedemann  failed  in  the  city  of 
Braunschweig — not  the  first  Bach,  incidentally,  to  live  there,  as  a  kins- 
man, Johann  Stephan  Bach,  had  served  from  1689-1718  as  a  Dom- 
Cantor — and  a  visit  to  Gottingen,  where  his  great  admirer,  Johann 
Nikolaus  Forkel,  worked  as  University  organist,  did  not  bring  success 
either.  The  composer  made  a  precarious  living  through  organ  recitals, 
teaching,  writing  works  for  special  occasions,  and,  at  times,  selling  manu- 
scripts of  his  father's,  always  hoping  that  he  would  yet  find  a  permanent 
position.  In  1774  Berlin  seemed  to  offer  him  such  a  chance,  and  in  one  of 
his  sudden  decisions — so  characteristic  of  Friedemann  in  his  old  age — he 
rushed  from  Braunschweig  without  even  taking  time  to  provide  in  an 
orderly  fashion  for  the  most  valuable  property  he  owned,  the  bulk  of  the 
autographs  of  his  father's  works.  He  just  left  them  with  his  friend, 
Professor  Eschenburg,  to  be  auctioned,  and  did  not  even  bother  to  make  a 
list  of  his  possessions.  Apparently  the  matter  slipped  his  mind  altogether, 

1  Maria  Antonia,  a  Bavarian  princess,  entered  Dresden  as  a  bride  in  1748,  two  years 
after  Friedemann  left  the  town.  She  may  have  come  for  a  visit  previously,  and  on  that 
occasion  received  Goldberg  and  Bach;  or  else  Friedemann  may  have  visited  Dresden  from 
Halle.  In  the  dedication  he  mentions  Count  Keyserlingk  as  Russian  ambassador  to  Saxony, 
so  th